Ria’n Holland missed one game last season.
He has now missed three straight this season after injuring his ankle Nov. 19 against Colorado. The Bears (5-4, 0-0) are 1-2 in outings without Holland’s 20.2 points per game.
Head coach Bob Hoffman said Holland’s status for Saturday’s game against Florida A&M is still up in the air.
“He went a little more (Thursday) than he has since he’s been hurt, so that’s encouraging,” Hoffman said. “He’s had good days, and I like where we’re moving and the potential of him playing, but I don’t know if that will happen Saturday or not.”
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Mercer has been on the road since a Nov. 26 win against Hiwassee, losing bouts to No. 24 Tennessee and Memphis during the trip. The Bears fell behind early to the Volunteers in an 84-60 loss, then fell to the Tigers 83-81 in double overtime.
Senior guard Jordan Strawberry said it has definitely been different without Holland on the floor.
“You always miss a player that’s averaging 20 points a game,” Strawberry said. “But we have to adjust. It’s just part of the game.”
And he has done so; over the last two games, Strawberry is averaging 15.5 points, compared to 8.3 points while Holland was in the lineup.
“I know that (Holland’s) a big part of our offense, and I had to step in a little and take more shots and knock shots down,” Strawberry said. “Whatever I needed to do to help my team win.”
But Strawberry hasn’t been the only one to step up his performance without Holland. Both Ethan Stair and Cory Kilby have seen spikes in production. After his insertion into the starting lineup, Stair has averaged 13 points per game — compared to 6.8 beforehand.
Kilby is averaging 9.3 points over the last three outings, compared to a meager 2.5 points with Holland in the lineup.
“All those guys contributed in different ways than they have in the past and played more minutes, so that was significant,” Hoffman said. “The hard part for me now is trying to figure out minutes for everybody.”
Hoffman said he was proud of how the team responded against Memphis after the loss to Tennessee, even though he’s never happy with a loss. But the Bears’ coach said the team must not dwell on a double overtime loss to Memphis that Strawberry called “tough.”
Florida A&M will enter Hawkins Arena 2-9 on the season, but Hoffman said the Rattlers are a better team than their record indicates. Florida A&M has played only two home games this season and just spent 13 straight days on the road.
Saturday will be the team’s sixth straight road game.
“For them to be in games and have opportunities to win and you’ve been on the road that long, that’s a credit to this coaching staff that has taken over this program,” Hoffman said. “They have athletes, and they have shooters.”
The Bears will look to snap their two-game skid, but Hoffman said the team will need to be ready to play in order to do so. Whether that will include Holland remains uncertain, although Hoffman is remaining positive: He sees the adversity as character building.
“You never know what the future holds. You hope everybody’s healthy and you hope nobody gets in foul trouble and it’s a perfect panacea, but it’s not going to be that way,” Hoffman said. “Any adversity you can overcome and figure out how to play through should make you stronger once you get into conference play.”