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Sunday, Sep 26, 2021

Bears ride strong first half to outlast Samford

Mercer needed a victory. And they needed it bad.

Coming off a 19-point thrashing at the hands of East Tennessee State, the Bears were reeling and in desperate need of a win to get them back on track.

They got that win. But it wasn’t easy -- at all.

The Bears came out firing on all cylinders, and Samford couldn’t seem to buy a bucket if their life depended on it.

Nine 3-pointers and stifling defense led the Bears to a 38-20 halftime lead, their largest of the 2019 season to date. However, the second half was a different story.

The Bulldogs slowly scratched and clawed their way right back into the game, eventually cutting the Mercer lead down to 52-50 with 6:30 left in the game.

A few minutes later, Mercer freshman Luke Hamilton stepped up and drilled a deep 3-pointer to put Mercer up 62-54. It was a dagger.

Despite making just nine total shots in the second half, Mercer found a way to hang on in a 65-62 victory over the Samford Bulldogs.

Quick Takes

(1) The 3-pointers were flying all night

From the opening tip until the final buzzer, Mercer was firing away from beyond the arc. The Bears hit nine 3-pointers in the first half while Samford only knocked down one. That’s a 24-point difference in scoring, and when you consider that Mercer ended the first half up 18, you can see just how important those 3-pointers were. There won’t be nights like these often, but Mercer will take this one and use it to build momentum as the season comes to a close.

(2) Bears need consistency from the bench

Mercer’s bench scored 17 points tonight, 11 of which came from freshman Luke Hamilton. The big man hit three big time 3-pointers including a deep one late in the game to put Mercer up eight points with under a minute to go. If Mercer can get better consistency from their other bench players, the team should have no problems keeping up with some of the higher-scoring teams in the conference.

(3) Can Mercer finish the season strong?

The Bears are getting ready to enter the final week of conference action, which means we are getting awfully close to the SoCon Tournament. Mercer is a team that has had its fair share of ups and downs. However, they have an opportunity to put all of that behind them and finish out the season strong. The Bears sit in seventh place right now, within striking distance of a fifth seed. If the team can finish in the top six, they earn a tournament bye. They need that bye. Can they make it happen?

Player of the Game: Ross “Mamba” Cummings (No. 20)

  • The junior guard scored a team-high 23 points

  • Cummings also pulled down six rebounds

  • 12 of Cummings’ 23 points came from behind the 3-point line

Notable Quotables

(1) Mercer Head Coach Bob Hoffman on team’s fast start:

“I thought our juice was really good. That’s what we talked about -- we’ve gotta have juice … amazing intensity for this game. I thought all our guys were ready to play, and I’m happy for them that we were able to find a way to get it done tonight. We were able to find a way to win a close game, which is great for this team.”

(2) Hoffman on Luke Hamilton’s big performance;

“He’s not afraid of the moment. I love the fact that he’s not afraid. That’s a big deal. But as a freshman -- if you’re aggressive and you wanna be good and you play as hard as he’s playing -- good things are gonna happen.”

(3) Hoffman on the team’s momentum heading into final games:

“Momentum’s a big deal. For your mindset -- more often than not -- you’ve got to be on a little bit of a roll and feel really good about what you’re trying to do. And get to that tournament … get on that neutral floor and let it all out and let it go.”


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