Bears come up short at home in loss to The Citadel


Image: Christian Hartley

Senior forward Jaylen Stowe (No. 2) drives the ball against The Citadel defender Hayden Brown (No. 33).

From time to time in the game of basketball, there are some games that it feels like you must win. Saturday’s matchup with The Citadel (11-12, 3-9 SoCon) was one of those games for Mercer men’s basketball.

They came into the game with a 3-8 conference record, on the wrong side of a three-game losing streak and heading for a tough, two-game road trip.

Mercer (8-16, 3-9 SoCon) needed a spark to get their season back on track, and they were running out of opportunities to make it happen.

The opening 20 minutes were a true back-and-forth affair, as each team held the lead for more than six minutes at a time. Combine that with the struggles both teams had shooting the ball and the result was a 26-26 tie at halftime.

The second half started off in a similar fashion to the first, with Mercer jumping out to a quick six-point lead. However, turnovers and inconsistent play on offense saw that lead quickly dissipate.

The Bulldogs later took advantage of a seven-minute Mercer scoring drought to go up seven as the game entered its final minutes. The drought ultimately cost them the game, as the Bears fell 67-61 in the end.

Quick Takes

(1) Missed free throws doom the Bears again

When you lose a game by just six points and look back to see that your team missed 15 free throws, including 11 in the second half, you can’t help but kick yourself. The Bears shot 12-of-27 from the charity stripe in Saturday’s game, compared to The Citadel’s 15-of-23 performance. That’s just not winning basketball. It was one of the first things Coach Hoffman commented on after the game, as he knew it doomed his team in the end.

(2) It’s the same old story

In what seems like every single game this season, Mercer comes out strong only to fall flat in the second half during a scoring drought, plaguing them to a loss in the end. Effort is not the issue with this team, nor is heart — they have enormous amounts of both. However, something clicks in this team each game about mid-way through the second half each game that causes them to lose focus. They must figure it out if they are going to climb the SoCon rankings before the tournament.

(3) It might be time for a lineup change

Mercer got particularly poor play from their starting lineup in Saturday’s game, prompting a question after the game asking Coach Hoffman if he was considering changes to the starting lineup. Several of Mercer’s younger players have been playing pretty well of late in limited minutes. A change in the starting lineup, at best, could provide the spark that the Bears need to turn their season around. At worst, it allows Mercer’s younger players to gain invaluable experience heading into next season.

Player of the Game: Ethan Stair (No. 22)

  • The senior shooting guard scored a team-high 19 points
  • Stair also pulled down a team-high seven rebounds, dished out three assists and secured two steals
  • Stair was the only Bear to score in double-figures in a game where the Bears struggled to shoot the ball

Notable Quotables

(1) Head Coach Bob Hoffman on his team’s missed free throws:

“We were 12-of-27 from the free throw line, and some of those ended up almost like turnovers because you have empty trips. Then they hit those three 3’s in a row, which broke our back and got the separation when it was like a one-point game. We had a couple opportunities to keep the lead, and we didn’t get it done.”

(2) Hoffman talks about the team’s second-half lulls this season:

“Our guys battled, and then we had that lull that we’ve had a lot. I’ve got to figure out. I’m not doing all I can do to help the guys. I’m trying. But I’ve gotta figure out some ways to help them.”

(3) Hoffman on the possibility of changes to the starting lineup:

“At some point, you trust — they trust in you and you trust in them. It’s a two-way street. I’ve been doing this college game for 28 years, and over those years usually trust wins out. It didn’t tonight. It hasn’t been good the last few weeks.”