The Mercer men’s basketball team returned to Hawkins Arena after a nine-day break, on a night where the women’s team collected an epic road win, and defeated Kennesaw State 89-56 in their final game before conference play begins.
The game began with an excited crowd responding to the announcement that the Mercer women defeated the University of North Carolina 97-86. The men started strong, getting six different players in the scoring column halfway through the first half.
At halftime, the Bears had a seven-point lead. They had forced the Owls into 11 turnovers and only 31 points. Jordan Strawberry had four assists and Ria’n Holland was the team’s leading scorer with nine points.
After halftime, the defense and scoring picked up for the Bears. They scored 51 points in the second half and held Kennesaw State to 25. With the game in hand, head coach Bob Hoffman was able to go to the bench and get some rest for his starters before conference play begins on Sunday.
The Bears went into halftime holding a seven point lead. In the first 10 minutes after the break, Mercer outscored Kennesaw State 25-14, which pushed the lead to 18 points and the Owls where never able to get back within striking distance. During that period, Ria’n Holland picked up his scoring doubling his first half point total of nine.
Four who mattered
Ria’n Holland: The senior shooter was very effective attacking the basket. He scored a game high 20 points but only one of his eight baskets came from behind the three-point line. He also distributed five assists and collected three steals.
Desmond Ringer: The big man for the Bears had a workman-like day scoring 10 points and grabbing six rebounds. More impressive was that he did it while playing only 21 minutes.
Stephon Jelks: The Bears forward did a little bit of everything. He scored six points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished five assists and stole the ball twice. He and Ringer also did a great job of holding the Owls’ big men in check.
The bench is strong: The bench really had a chance to show that it can put the ball in the hole. They scored 36 of the Bears 89 points. Cory Kilby had 11, Ryan Johnson had nine, Marcus Cohen scored seven and Jaylen Stowe scored six.
No place like home: Mercer is now 5-0 at home. They are averaging 91.4 points per game at Hawkins Arena and limiting their opponents to 54.8 points per game. That’s fantastic home cooking.
They said it
Head coach Bob Hoffman on coming out strong after the Christmas break: “It’s a credit to our players who work really hard on their games and care about being good and our assistant coaches who continue to develop guys. This time of year you can lose games easily by being distracted by good things.”
Hoffman on the bench’s play: “We’ve got versatile players and they keep listening and learning how to play different places and different spots on the floor. If we can keep doing that it makes you hard to guard and if we can share the ball like we did tonight, 24 assists on 36 baskets. If you can do those kind of things you’ve got a chance to be special.”
Hoffman on one thing they need to clean up before SoCon play begins: “We gotta rebound better than we did in the first half.”
Mercer will open up SoCon play when they welcome East Tennessee State to Hawkins Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.