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Georgia Bulldogs 56, Mercer Bears 53: Observations from the Visitors' Section of the University Center

With respect to the game itself, my observations are fourfold:

  • In any sport under any circumstances, and particularly when playing on the road, this rule will be proven true every single time: when your game plan is to out-talent the opposition, you will look bad if the opposition’s game plan is to out-hustle you. You will win sometimes and lose sometimes, but you will never look good in that situation.
  • Free throw shooting matters. Georgia stepped up to the charity stripe twice as often as Mercer did, yet the Bulldogs sunk only 16 of 26 free throws (61.5%), while 11 of the Bears’ 13 free throws fell (84.6%). I’m not at all certain there is a team on the Red and Black’s conference schedule that Mark Fox’s Hoop Hounds can overcome with that kind of disparity at the line.
  • Coach Fox’s club has shown it can handle adversity. It has yet to show that it can handle prosperity. After carding by far the most impressive win of the young season and building up a 19-8 lead seven minutes into the first half, the Bulldogs allowed a budding blowout to turn into a nailbiter. Georgia has built all the character it needs can stand by winning ugly.
  • At the end of the night, the Georgia Bulldogs beat the Mercer Bears. There was much fault to be found with the way in which the Classic City Canines won, but at least they defeated the Baptists rather than, say, losing to Kennesaw State, losing to Oakland, or losing to Jacksonville.

That gets the painful part of the game out of the way. Now for the pleasant part:

My seven-year-old son and I were in attendance at the sold-out University Center on Thursday evening. It was our first trip to see a sporting event at Mercer, and I have to compliment the fine folks who arranged the place, because the layout could not have been more conducive to visiting fans finding their way from place to place; after exiting I-75, I turned onto Mercer University Drive, Stadium Drive, and University Center Drive in succession. You can’t get much clearer than that.

Thomas and I got there in time to be in line for general admission seating when the doors opened an hour before tip-off. That gave us time to look around a little, and we found the University Center to be a nice facility that celebrates the history of Mercer athletics. A case full of football memorabilia paid appropriate homage to favorite son Wally Butts. I couldn’t tell you the seating capacity of the University Center, but, as someone who recently paid his first visit to the Thrillerdome, I found the Bears’ home court much more spacious and accommodating than Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

Thomas and I saw MaconDawg before the game, and I spoke to him at halftime (when he reported to me on the status of the comment thread, which was about what I would have expected with the Hoop Dogs down 31-24 at the break). My son and I sat with our fellow Georgia fans behind the visitors’ bench, directly opposite the pep band that played the "Star Trek" theme song as we entered the arena. It was nice being there for warm-ups, and nicer still to be present to hear the pregame prayer (of the sort that, much to my chagrin, has not been heard in Sanford Stadium in the last 20 years) and to see Coach Fox holding his hand over his heart during the playing of the national anthem.

It isn’t often I get to go to a sporting event in which I watch the Bulldogs face an opponent that either claims orange as one of its team colors or plays its home games in the Empire State of the South yet still come away feeling a measure of fondness for the folks who support the other team, but Mercer has made many a noteworthy contribution to Georgia, both the state and the university in Athens. As always, having my son with me at a sporting event invariably skews my impression of the game in a highly favorable direction, but this was a good experience and a good game against a team that came to play on behalf of a program that I hope we encounter in every sport ere long.

Go ‘Dawgs!