One big home win down. Three more important home games to go.
That’s what faces the Mercer Bears this week after their win over The Citadel on Saturday.
Mercer returns to action quickly at 7 p.m. on Monday against Western Carolina. The Bears then host Furman on Thursday and Wofford on Saturday.
“You can’t take anything for granted in this league, and I’ve said it multiple times, and the next day, the team on the bottom ends up beating the No. 1 team in the league,” Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said of the Southern Conference race. “It’s still potential to have more and more things like that as people get more comfortable with their teams and make a run here at the end.”
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Hoffman should know. His Bears (10-12 overall) are 4-5 in conference play after winning their past two games. Other a loss to Wofford, Mercer’s conference losses have been close and have come to the top four teams in the standings.
East Tennessee State and Furman are tied atop the conference, while UNC Greensboro is a half-game back, and Chattanooga is a full game back. Mercer lost to Furman, UNC Greensboro and Chattanooga each by two points. In their nine-point loss to East Tennessee State, the Bears led by seven with just more than 11 minutes to play.
“It’s very important,” junior point guard Jordan Strawberry said of the Bears’ win Saturday. “We want to get our confidence going at home. We’d lost the last two at home to ETSU and Chattanooga, so we wanted to get back and get in the flow here and start winning again.”
The Bears open their second half of conference play Monday against Western Carolina. Mercer beat Western Carolina 70-50 on Jan. 21, and Larry Hunters’ Catamounts are 7-15 overall and 2-7 in the conference.
“It just worked out that way in the conference schedule,” Hoffman said of the quick turnaround against the Catamounts. “It won’t be easy. Coach Hunter, they’ve had some tough losses just like us. They’re going to be coming in here playing as hard as they possibly can. We’ve had a tough time with them in the past. We were fortunate to get them last Saturday at their place.”
Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman will coach his 300th game with the Bears on Monday. Here’s a look at some of the highlights of Hoffman’s time with the Bears:
Hired: March 27, 2008.
First win: 89-63 over Piedmont on Nov. 14, 2008.
Highlights: The Bears have reached postseason play the past five seasons, winning the CollegeInsider.com Tournament in 2011-12. ... Hoffman’s 2013-14 team earned Mercer’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win (78-74 over Duke). ... The Bears also won the A-Sun Tournament that season. ... Hoffman’s Mercer teams own 10 wins over Power 5 conference teams.