Coming into Saturday’s matchup, the Furman Paladins had beaten the Mercer Bears six consecutive times.
In the first of two meetings this season, the Paladins (17-5, 6-4 SoCon) beat Mercer 71-58. To date, it’s the Bears’ worst conference loss of the season.
In similar fashion to the last game, Furman led the Bears nearly the entire way. Mercer made a few runs in the second half, even cutting the Paladins lead down to four midway through the final 20 minutes.
However, the Paladins 3-point shooting was just too much in the end. Mercer fought hard as they always do, but fell short 74-63 when the buzzer rang.
(1) Different game, same story
Mercer gets down double-digits early after a slow start to the game. They fight back, get within striking distance, only to fall just short in the end. Sound familiar? Well, that’s been the story for this year’s Mercer men’s basketball team. With three senior starters playing in some of their final games as Bears, you have to think that Mercer will find a way to turn it around come March for the SoCon tournament.
(2) Luke Hamilton needs more minutes
Every time the freshman gets into the ballgame, good things happen for the Bears. Hamilton fills a void that Mercer has on this year’s team -- the big guy that can stretch the defense with his shooting. The freshman forward played just seven minutes on Saturday, but scored five points and pulled down two rebounds. He will be an integral part of next year’s squad, but needs a bigger role this year, too.
(3) Seniors need to step up
Mercer’s three seniors combined for just 16 points on Saturday afternoon, 10 of which came from Ethan Stair. The trio of Cory Kilby, Jaylen Stowe and Stair must step up and turn the tides of the 2018-2019 season. The Bears are inching dangerously close to their worst season since joining the Southern Conference in 2014. Without improved play from their senior team leaders, Mercer stands no chance come tournament time.
Player of the Game: Djordje Dimitrijevic (No. 00)
- Dimitrijevic scored 10 points, tying Ethan Stair for second on the Bears in scoring
- He dished out five assists, the most by any player on either team
- The junior guard also pulled down four rebounds and grabbed a steal in 31 minutes of action
(1) Head coach Bob Hoffman’s message to his team...
“We’ve proven we can play with any team in the league. We just haven’t proven we can beat any team in the league. That’s a big different thing right now. But we’re gonna keep fighting, we’re gonna keep believing and keep working hard trying to get it done.”
(2) Hoffman talks about the consistency of his team’s lose losses...
“It’s kinda the same story, 40th verse of the season. We got down four in the second half, and had multiple layouts we couldn’t get to go done. We’ve got to finish some layups when you put em’ in such jeopardy as we had them in. For the most part, 90% of the time, I thought our effort was amazing.”
(3) Hoffman on where his team goes from here...
“Our guys are pretty fatigued right now, so we’re going to give them a couple of days off. We’re all pretty frustrated right now. We must continue to give effort and get better. We have to keep battling and continue to grow as a team. It’s a hard time right now. We’re not making the extra plays that you need to. It’s not going like we want to right now, but good things can still happen.”