The “grind,” as Jibri Bryan put it Friday, is behind the Mercer Bears.
Now they have to take advantage of how well they made it through the difficult stretch.
Mercer won two of three on the road in Southern Conference play the past week, beating UNC Greensboro and VMI before losing by one-point -- missing a game-winning shot attempt at the buzzer -- Thursday at East Tennessee State. The Bears returned home Friday morning and have a quick turnaround before facing The Citadel at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Hawkins Arena.
Then they host Furman on Thursday and Samford on Jan. 17.
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“It was huge for us to find away to get those wins,” Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said. “Our guys were really focused and did a great job possession by possession, and that’s what you have to do on the road to be successful. And now you can’t come back home and think just because you were successful on the road that you’re going to walk on the floor and be able to walk out with a victory.
“There’s not going to be one game that’s not contested in this league, so we have to be ready against a Citadel team that’s hot and is playing very well together.”
The Bears are 8-9 overall and 3-1 in conference play in their first season in the Southern Conference. They stayed on the road throughout the three-game stretch and got home at about 4 a.m. on Friday after playing Thursday night.
“It’s a grind because you’ve got three games, and we were on the road for eight days traveling,” Bryan said. “You go hotel to hotel, and you play the game, and then you’re tired from the game, especially that VMI game that was like a track meet. And then you’re back on the road again.
“But we got through it and stayed together, and we’re focused in on what we have to do.”
The Citadel is 7-8 overall and 2-2 in the conference after winning its past two games. Furman is also 2-2 in conference play while Samford is 0-5.
Hoffman said he wasn’t sure about freshman Jordan Strawberry’s status for Saturday’s game after Strawberry suffered a foot injury against East Tennessee State. Junior Ike Nwamu is battling through a shoulder injury that was suffered against VMI, and Hoffman said he thought Nwamu would play Saturday.
“It’s tough to have that tough loss because we fought so hard to get back in the game, but we always say, ‘Learn from it and move on,’ ” Bryan said about Thursday’s game. “We can’t dwell on what went wrong. We’re just going to learn from it and go forward.
“It’s important to be back home and playing in front of our home crowd because it’s an awesome crowd, and we’re going to need that to get a little more energy. Just having one day between games, it’s going to be tough, so we’re going to need our crowd.”