Now, there are no excuses. There are no final exams. There is no holiday break.
There is nothing to keep the Mercer students from showing up Saturday to cheer on the Bears as they host The Citadel at Hawkins Arena in Southern Conference play.
Mercer is off to a strong start in its first season in the conference, with a 3-1 record, and the first of those wins came at home in December against VMI. But it was hard to tell if the students knew that game was being played.
Final exams took place the week after that game, and that was followed by the holiday break. And the students obviously were a little too distracted to spare a couple of hours to show up for the contest. That’s a shame because the Bears put on quite a show in that contest, and they have carried that over into this tough road stretch in conference play.
But now they’re home again for a 4 p.m. tipoff Saturday, and there is no reason the students shouldn’t fill up Hawkins Arena and give the team a real homecourt advantage. Let’s hope they take advantage of that opportunity.
This team deserves at least that much.
Bob Hoffman’s team has a lot of new faces this year, and it is natural that it would take this group some time to find its footing. Despite a difficult three-game stretch on the road against SEC programs (and three winnable games that slipped away), the Bears are starting to find their way.
Their strong start in conference play, including two wins on the road and a difficult one-point loss at East Tennessee State in the past week, is evidence of that. The members of the returning core -- Phillip Leonard, Ike Nwamu, Jibri Bryan, Darious Moten and T.J. Hallice -- are starting to look more comfortable in their increased roles, while some new faces -- Jordan Strawberry, Jestin Lewis and Stephon Jelks -- are stepping up and giving the team important minutes.
Mercer looks like a real challenger in its first year in its new conference, and even with all the new faces and increased responsibilities for the returning players, that’s no real surprise. The Bears have won a lot of games in recent years, and Hoffman and his terrific coaching staff have built a strong winning culture.
That is continuing this season, and that’s what is there for the students -- and other Middle Georgia fans -- to enjoy Saturday.
Hopefully, they will take up that opportunity.
Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org