MACON, Ga. –The Mercer men’s basketball team overpowered the Toccoa Falls Screaming Eagles, 110-43, in the Bears’ home opener Sunday afternoon at Hawkins Arena.
Mercer relied on balanced scoring and a ball hawking defense to post its first win of the young season. Senior guard Ria’n Holland led the way with 16 points, including 14 in the first stanza. Holland, who was celebrating his 23rd birthday Sunday, was one of four Bears to go for double figures. The 6-0 product of Fayetteville, N.C., was 6-10 from the field and 4 for 6 from behind the arc. Senior forward Demetre Rivers and sophomore Ethan Stair also scored in double-digits, putting up 12 points apiece while junior Ryan Johnson contributed 11 points. Freshman guard Marcus Cohen provided a solid spark off the bench tallying seven assists, eight points and six steals.
The Bears finished the opening half on an impressive 42-9 run, entering the break holding a commanding 57-19 lead. Mercer continued to dominate throughout the second half, outscoring the Screaming Eagles, 52-24 in the second period of play and never looked back in posting the convincing home opener victory.
Holland said it was important for the Bears to bounce back coming off a tough 88-79 season opening loss at Central Florida this past Friday night.
“It was important for us to come out and play well today, particularly on the defensive end,” said Holland. “We had some things we had to work on coming out of the UCF game.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Redshirt sophomore Ethan Stair was the Bears’ player of the game, as he came off the bench to provide 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
STAT OF THE GAME
The Bears’ stingy defense was the biggest factor in the game. Mercer forced its opponent to 29 turnovers, capitalizing for 42 points off of those miscues.
“I thought we were unselfish and we took care of the basketball. I thought there were moments we looked really, really good and we made that extra pass that you have to make in order to be a high level team. If that becomes a hallmark of this squad, then I think we can shoot a high percentage. (On the young guys playing) – “It’s huge to be able to get the young guys in the game; that’s only going to make them better. They see their potential and they see what it takes to get it done. They’ve been working really hard and today they were able to see that hard work pay off. I thought Marcus Cohen was special today with how he attacked the basket. He had seven assists with no turnovers as a freshman; he’s been playing at a high level. I think the whole scope of who we are going to be as a team is going to have to be about us stopping the ball and getting multiple stops in a row. We’re going to have lulls like we did Friday night against Central Florida on the offensive end, so we’re going to have to get more stops. It was great to see our starters cheering on the young guys when they got into the game. That lets me know that we have quality young men with high character that care more about just themselves. That is a joy as coach to see that; you have to have young guys that embrace it and our guys did. (On Ria’n Holland dunking for the first time in his college career) “He’s been feeling his oats and with it being his birthday today, maybe that’s something he’ll always remember, that he got a chance to “throw one down” on his birthday.” -Head Coach Bob Hoffman
- Thirteen different Bears saw action in the game with each of them getting into the scoring column.
- Mercer outrebounded Toccoa Falls 36-28 on the glass.
- Stair paced the Bears with seven rebounds. Cohen had a team-high eight assists.
- Mercer shot an impressive 55.7% on the day, including 46.2% behind the arc.
- The Bears capitalized for 42 points off turnovers.
- Mercer dominated inside play, outscoring Toccoa Falls 52-16 inside the paint.
- The Bears were provided 63 points off the bench, with Stair and junior forward Ryan Johnson each dropping double-digits.
- Mercer: 1-1
- Toccoa Falls: 0-5
The Bears will have a quick turn-around, hosting Jackson State this Tuesday, Nov. 14 at Hawkins Arena. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.