It took a half for the Mercer Bears to get going Monday night at Hawkins Arena. Once they did, Western Carolina didn’t have an answer.
The result was Mercer’s third straight win in head coach Bob Hoffman’s 300th game with the program. After a struggle of a first half that ended with the Bears leading by one point, Mercer pulled away for a 62-47 win to improve to 11-12 overall and 5-5 in Southern Conference play.
Western Carolina drops to 7-16 overall and 2-8.
The Bears led 23-22 after a sluggish offensive first half that saw the Bears shoot 8-of-20 from the floor (40 percent). Junior center Desmond Ringer kept the Bears in the lead by hitting five of his six shots in the opening half.
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Mercer was much better from the floor in the second half, hitting 15-of-27 shots. Ria’n Holland came alive in the second half, scoring 13 points after the break, and Mercer led by as many as 24 in the second half.
Mercer’s defense was strong throughout. Western Carolina shot only 41.7 percent in the first half (10-of-24) and 25.9 percent in the second half (7-of-27). The Catamounts made only 4-of-21 3-pointers.
Four who mattered
Hoffman: The Bears’ head coach improves to 175-125 in his ninth season with the program.
Ringer: The junior hit 7-of-8 from the floor to finish with 16 points.
Holland: The junior guard finished with 16 points, hitting 6-of-9 from the floor.
Jordan Strawberry: The junior point guard was 3-for-4 from 3-point range for nine points and had four assists.
Leading by just one at the half, Mercer opened the second half with 23-8 spurt to take control.
Quick turnaround: After playing Saturday afternoon, Hoffman used 11 players against the Catamounts, and eight of those played at least 15 minutes.
Strong again from the line: Mercer has been good from the free-throw line the entire season, and that continued with a 12-of-16 effort.
They said it
Hoffman on his 300th win: “It’s been great. It’s been a great run. I’m thankful for all the players that I’ve had and all the assistant coaches that have worked with us. I’m just blessed to be here at a tremendous university. The administration wants us to be good. They give us the resources to do the things we’ve been able to do.”
Hoffman on his team’s defense: “The second half we were really good. The first half was good, but I thought we were even better in the second half. We got some separation, and we got a little more bounce and had multiple guys give us energy and some pop off the bench, which I’m thrilled about.”
Ringer on his strong game: “My teammates found me in positions. I tried to get deep post touches, and my teammates found me, and I just finished.”
Holland on the second half: “In the second half, I didn’t really hit any jump shots really. I just went aggressive towards the rim. Des opened everything up. He was scoring everything, and it was kind of aimed in on him, so opened it up for everybody else.”
Mercer, which has won the first two games of a four-game homestand, stays at home at 7 p.m. on Thursday against Furman.