Mercer found the best way to move on from Friday’s season-opening loss to UCF during Sunday afternoon’s home opener.
The Bears (1-1) threw the past over their shoulders and into the distance in routing Toccoa Falls College (0-5) 110-43 in front of an energetic afternoon crowd at Hawkins Arena as Mercer led by as many as 67 points. The Bears held the Eagles without a point for a stretch of more than five minutes in the first half, and the Bears feasted offensively, blowing the game wide open to lead 37-12 with 5:32 to play in the half on the way to a 57-19 halftime advantage.
Four who mattered
Demetre Rivers: Not only was he perfect from the charity stripe, making all five free throws, but he also wrapped up his day with 12 points.
Ria’n Holland: If nothing else, he figured out a great way to celebrate his birthday. A two-handed dunk delighted the crowd in the second half - it was the first slam dunk of his college career. He also led the Bears in scoring with 16 points with his four three pointers also being a team best.
Stair: Good things happened for Mercer when Stair got open shots. Not only did he drain four field goals, but his well-rounded day also included pulling down seven rebounds.
Marcus Cohen: Was extremely active as part of the Bears offense on Sunday, scoring eight points and leading the team with seven assists.
Nothing flat about it: It would have been easy for Mercer to sleep walk through this one. The Bears were two days removed from a season-opening loss, and they were up against a Toccoa Falls team that was winless in its four games against varsity competition, had given up at least 100 points in each one. The Bears got going after a brief lull, coasting to the win as expected.
Top to bottom effort: With Mercer’s huge halftime lead, it afforded the Bears an opportunity to give their starters a rest and give way to players who normally don’t see much playing time. Overall, 13 Bears scored at least one point on Sunday with Ryan Johnson being among the leaders off the bench with 11 points. The effort went beyond the stat sheet as well. Mercer’s starters stayed engaged within the game after they took a seat the rest of the way, constantly cheering on their teammates and keeping them energized.
Going long: Mercer showed off its perimeter game on Sunday. The Bears converted 46 percent of their 3-point shots, including 64 percent in the first half. Holland led the way by converting four of them.
Taking over: Toccoa hung with Mercer for the first few minutes before the Bears overwhelmed them. A Cohen layup made it 15-8, and he drained a three pointer with 10:31 to go in the half for an 18-10 edge. Stair later added a free throw as Mercer led 19-10, its biggest lead of the game, and there would be no looking back for Mercer.
The Eagles were held to 31 percent from the field against Mercer, with six of their 17 made field goals being three pointers.
They said it
Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman on the Bears bouncing back from Friday’s loss: “I thought we were unselfish and guys took care of the ball when things were a little crazy on some possessions, and you’ve got to do that - no matter what the situation is and what’s transpiring. ‘How are you going to play? What are you going to look like?’ There were moments when we were really, really good, and we passed the ball well and made that second pass that you have to do to be a high-level team. If that becomes a hallmark of this squad, I think we’ll shoot a really high percentage. On defense, we’ve got to continue to get better. They still drove it a little too much for me, we have to get in the gaps and get better on that.”
Hoffman on the Bears putting Friday’s loss behind them: “I thought we were a little stale at the beginning and then got into it. Once we got a little separation, we started to get into doing more of what we needed to do. The book on our teams over the years is the better that we stay to the principles that we’re giving them for each year, the better we’re going to be.”
Hoffman on Cohen: “I thought he was really good again (Sunday) He had seven assists and no turnovers as freshman, he’s been playing at a high level.”
Holland on seeing younger players get playing time: “It was good, I loved seeing those guys play. I encouraged them as much as I can.”
Holland on the Bears success shooting the three pointer: “When they’re going, that’s a good thing. But there’s going to be times when they are not going. We need to try and find ways to do other things well, like getting to the rim.”
Holland on his first career college dunk: “It was good. I’ve had opportunities, but I’ve just layed it up, normally. My teammates have been ragging me, so I finally put one down.
Mercer hosts Jackson State on Tuesday.