The Bears just cannot lose lately, holding a seven-game winning streak as of Feb. 5. This is the longest winning streak since 2002-2003, when the Bears won an impressive 12 in-a-row. Mercer has faced competition both at the top and bottom of the table, and they win all of them in stride like it is nothing. This winning streak will be tested in a late game versus East Tennessee State and a rivalry matchup against winless Kennesaw State later in the week. “It has been a tremendous effort,” Coach Hoffman said about the performance in their latest win, one that summed up just how far the Bears have come in regards to last season.
With the latest win, the Bears have clinched a spot in the General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Men’s Basketball Championship tournament. They are still atop the conference at 10-2, in a virtual dead heat with the Belmont Bruins. That four point loss in Nashville still rings true in the ears of every Mercer Bear, and the favor can be returned on Feb. 25. The Bears also rose to 18-7 overall, and they control their own destiny for the number one overall seed in the Atlantic Sun Championship due to a game remaining versus Belmont.
Jacksonville 65, Mercer 75
In a game that saw the four-win Jacksonville Dolphins venture into the University Center, the Mercer Bears were not very hospitable hosts. Four Bears finished in double figures, and it led to the 10-point victory. Justin Cecil led the team with 16 points, with Langston Hall right behind him at 15. Jakob Gollon had 13 points to buoy the offense in conjunction with an impressive 11 from Daniel Coursey. These four helped spur a 16-6 run to begin the game, but the Dolphins did not go away quietly into the night. A monumental comeback had Jacksonville take the lead at 49-47 following a hook shot in defiance of a student section that had been quieted by a powerful dunk seconds prior. Nevertheless, it would be the only time that the Dolphins could celebrate all night, as Travis Smith buried a long three-point shot to set off another furious Mercer rally that would put the Bears ahead once and for all. Also, Daniel Coursey extended his conference-leading block tally to 49 with four on this occasion.
Mercer 75, Stetson 64
Bud Thomas dropped 19 points at Stetson’s Edmunds Center as Mercer ensured that the Hatters would not make it back to .500 overall in the conference on that night. Not to be outdone, Jakob Gollon added 17 points, of which the majority came in the first half. The Bears would lead by as much as 20 points in the second half, helped by Travis Smith’s career-high 13 points. Smith and Thomas’ dual career highs helped keep the Hatters from finishing their late comeback. However, abysmal free throw shooting in the second half (33 percent from the line) kept the Bears out of finishing well. “[I am] a little frustrated because we need to finish games right and we didn’t finish right tonight,” Coach Hoffman said about the Bears losing half of their lead against the Hatters after having the game in hand.
Mercer 75, FGCU 66
Another great performance saw the Bears take down the FGCU Eagles at Alico Arena in Fort Myers, Fla. The gutsy road effort was the hardest win that the Bears have had in a while, but once the Bears took the lead, they never relinquished it. The Eagles closed the half down by four, but an impressive start saw the Bears extend the lead by as many as 18. It would get as close as seven the rest of the way. Langston Hall led the Bears with 20 points, which would be the fifth time he has eclipsed 20 points in a game. The Bears also had Jakob Gollon add 10 points to the effort.
USC Upstate 47, Mercer 61
A phenomenal defensive performance from the Mercer Bears limited the Trojans to just 11 first half points. However, a poor finish from the Bears once again had them struggling to finish on a high note. The Bears knocked off the third place team in the conference with superb play on both sides of the ball, even if it was a bit weak towards the end. Langston Hall led the team with 13 points, and Daniel Coursey extended his block count on the season to 56.
With the win, the Bears have put a two-and-a-half game cushion between them and anyone else in the conference, minus Belmont.