That’s what Mercer secured in Saturday’s game against Chattanooga, giving the Bears two straight wins as the season began to wind down.
It didn’t look promising early for the Bears, as it was Chattanooga (12-17, 7-9 SoCon) who led for most of the first half and entered halftime up 42-34.
The first 10 minutes of the second half were pretty stagnant. Mercer hung around, but wasn’t able to cut into the Mocs lead.
However, at around the nine-minute mark, the Bears (10-17, 6-10) caught fire and went on a 19-5 run to take a 69-61 lead.
Chattanooga fought back, but that’s when Ross Cummings caught fire. The junior guard scored 17 points in the game’s final seven minutes.
Despite a strong effort down the stretch from the Mocs, it was the Bears who held on for the 74-69 victory.
(1) Has the switch finally flipped?
Since the beginning of conference play, I’ve been asking the same question: When is the proverbial switch going to flip for this team? Well, that might have happened in Saturday’s win. The Bears overcame not only a slow start, which has plagued them so often this season, but also a long second-half scoring drought — the team’s Achilles heel all season. When young team’s like Mercer start finding ways to win, they can become dangerous as their confidence continues to grow. One can only hope that happens for this team, as well.
(2) Ross. Cummings. That’s all.
The kid is downright special. It’s that simple. I can’t think of any more ways to characterize what Cummings has meant to his team this year. We all knew after he broke out last year that he would be a good player, but I’m not sure many thought he would drop 37 points in a conference game that his team absolutely had to win. The junior guard started as a role player, became a starter, transitioned into a team leader and has now transformed into a star. His future is bright, and his team will need every bit of his magic down the stretch.
(3) Can the Bears finish strong?
Two more games remain on the schedule for Mercer men’s basketball before the SoCon tournament. The Bears currently sit in sixth place in the SoCon, which would grant them a bye in the tournament. If things stay the same, the Bears would have a second-round matchup with third place ETSU, who has beaten Mercer twice. If Mercer is going to stand a chance of advancing past the second round, the Bears must build up their confidence by winning these next two games.
Player of the Game: Ross Cummings (No. 20)
Cummings scored a career-high 37 points on 12-of-22 shooting
His 37 points were two points shy of the Hawkins Arena all-time record for points scored in a game
Cummings hit eight 3-pointers, also a career-high for the junior
(1) Head Coach Bob Hoffman on the play of Ross Cummings:
“That guy right there (Ross Cummings) was amazing. Our guys did a great job screening for him and he got going and he hit some deep threes from the corner that really got us going.”
(2) Hoffman talks about the team’s second-half comeback:
“We weren’t guarding very well in the first half. In the second half we started scrambling some on defense and I think it upset Chattanooga some.”
(3) Hoffman on what the team has to do to keep winning:
“Right now we just need to keep getting better and finding things that work for us. I told our guys they really persevered and there was a lot more basketball to play.”