Bob Hoffman and the Mercer Bears extended their Cinderella Story win streak to nine games with a win over the hometown KSU Owls before disappointingly falling at the hands of Jacksonville on the road. With the A-Sun tournament in sight, the Bears must stay focused and hopeful in the games to come.
Mercer 61, KSU 57
Surrounded by a crowd of 5,000 fans all wearing “BEAT MERCER” shirts to commemorate their debut of their first fight song, the Owls of Kennesaw State University only had one thing on their mind: to prevent Mercer from garnering its 20th win against them. Hoffman’s bunch looked like it was going to oblige during the middle of the second half, as Spencer Dixon would have a 17-point outburst in the second half for KSU, going 5-for-5 from long range and 6-of-8 from the field.
The Owls would have an 18-6 run midway through the second half to take the lead from Mercer 42-36. However, the Bears were out for blood and would claw back behind redshirt-sophomore Jakob Gollon. Gollon would dazzle in the second half as well, going 1-for-1 from three-point range, 3-for-4 from the charity stripe, and 4-for-5 from the field, totaling 12 second half points. Sophomore Bud Thomas also added 10 points in the second half. Sophomore Langston Hall would contribute 11 points to the effort and Monty Brown added a spark off of the bench, contributing 12 points towards the Bears’ victory.
“It was a very exciting atmosphere,” said Thomas. “We had to overcome a lot of obstacles during the game. We handled adversity well and most importantly found a way to win our ninth straight game,” he added.
Mercer 75, Jacksonville 81
The first of a two-game business trip to Florida didn’t go as planned for the orange and black of Mercer. Against a Jacksonville team that was 6-20 before the game, the Bears outpaced the Dolphins in second-chance points, rebounds and points in the paint. Unfortunately for Mercer, however, Jacksonville shot 65 percent from the field, 50 percent from long range and 68.2 percent from the foul line in the second half, while the boys from Macon only shot 40.5, 30.8 and 60 respectively.
The Dolphins would be up by as many as 18 with 7:35 left to play in regulation before Mercer mounted a 22-5 point comeback to pull within two points at 75-77. The foul, then free throw, game wouldn’t go Mercer’s way, and the Bears suffered their first loss in over a month, 81-75.
The game featured five lead changes in the first half. “We still have a chance to win the conference, so this is disappointing, but the season isn’t over,” Head Coach Bob Hoffman said to MercerBears.com. “We had an unbelievable run and tonight we didn’t get it done in a game we could have, but that’s what happens in this league,” he added.
Hall would finish with 20 points, while Sophomore Daniel Coursey added 16 points and eight rebounds. Thomas and Gollon each contributed 10 points as well, with Bud coming one rebound short of a double-double.
Mercer has three regular season games left, at North Florida, and then at home versus the Lipscomb University Bison and the conference-leading Belmont University Bruins on Feb. 25. The Belmont game is the “Halloween in February” game, where the student section will be dressing up in costumes to support the Bears and confuse the Bruins.