Bob Hoffman always wants his Mercer players focused on the next game, not looking back or too far ahead.
He will get his wish Thursday at Hawkins Arena against Western Carolina.
The Catamounts got the Bears’ attention with a 60-52 win last month in the teams’ first meeting. And on Saturday, Western Carolina beat Chattanooga 73-70 to drop the Mocs into a second-place tie with Mercer in the Southern Conference.
“Western has great talent,” Hoffman said. “We understand their strengths. They beat us bad at their place doing what they do, and we’ve got to be really ready to compete, especially on the glass. They beat us on the glass, and we didn’t execute like we need to do.”
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In that game, the Bears shot 29.6 percent from the floor (16-of-54), 21.1 percent from 3-point range (4-of-19) and 61.5 percent from the free-throw line (16-of-26). Since that game, Mercer has won three of its past four games.
“Every game is important, and Coach always talks about the most important game is the next one, and that’s Western Carolina,” Mercer senior T.J. Hallice said. “All of us didn’t have our best game (in the first meeting), and especially with it being at home, we don’t like losing at home.
“(The first game) is a motivation for us. Sometimes it happens. That’s just the game of basketball, and that’s how it goes.”
The Bears have six games remaining in their first Southern Conference regular season, including a Saturday home game against UNC Greensboro.
Mercer is 14-11 overall and 9-3 in conference play after winning last week at The Citadel and Furman.
Western Carolina is 12-13 overall and 7-6 in conference play. James Sinclair leads the team, averaging 19.2 points per game.
“We still have things we have to get better at and tweak and areas where we need to grow and little things that you can’t really figure out until you’re in the midst of games and situations, and that’s what’s happening to us now,” Hoffman said. “When you play at home and on the road and guys are learning and continuing to figure out things, you can’t do that until you get in those situations.
“Experience is a great teacher, but I love how we’re competing. They’re giving an amazing effort night in and night out.”