Call it the wake-up from hibernation or whatever you want, but the men’s basketball team’s exhibition win over Georgia College and State wasn’t that impressive.
Nevertheless, the 69-66 win was better than last year’s result: a 75-72 loss to the Division II school. With the proceeds of the game going to the American Cancer Society, junior guard Jeff Smith looked fantastic in his first game as a Bear, posting 22 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes. The rest of the team played well in spurts but still seemed to be in ‘preseason’ form.
“In the first half, we were stagnant and standing around,” said second year head coach Bob Hoffman after the game on MercerBears.com. “That led to a lot of turnovers. GCSU played their tails off, and Coach Sellers is a great coach. We have to keep working on the little things. We only have eight or nine days left to prepare for our regular season opener.”
To be fair, it was a tough situation for Mercer. Georgia College and State University, a 22-7 team out of the Peach Belt Conference, consistently gives the Bears fits in preseason action. Gunning for the larger Division I school, the ‘Battle of Middle Georgia’ often comes down to the wire.
Last night, it was Marietta product Graham Martin that was trying his best to upset Mercer with 15 points on the night. The Bobcats also saw big production from Jake Rios and Ryan Aquino with 11 and 10 points on the night, respectively.
Trailing by nine at the half 35-26, the Bears shot 40.7% from the field for a big second half to burn past the Bobcats. A late rally by GSCU pulled the game within three, but they wouldn’t get any closer as time ran out on the school from Milledgeville.
Analyzing Mercer’s effort, Jeff Smith may have stolen the headlines, but James Florence quietly put together a solid second half effort en route to 17 points on the night. Big man Daniel Emerson struggled a bit inside committing six turnovers but managed to fall just short of a double-double with 8 points and 11 rebounds.
Hoffman used the exhibition matchup to get a feel for the team’s depth, playing a total of nine bench players including transfers Brandon Moore, Michael Jenkins, and Ridas Pulkauninkas for lengthy amounts of time.
While Mercer aimed to develop continuity on the floor, GCSU put their best players on the floor but failed to win the battle on the glass. The Bears would outrebound the Bobcats 49-34 for the night.
With their only exhibition of the season complete, Mercer opens up regular season play against Fisk University before Hoffman’s squad travels to Rhode Island to play Bucknell, Bryant, and Providence in three consecutive days. Then Mercer plays in arguably their most important home game of the season against Florida State for homecoming.