Florida Gulf Coast (23-10) at Mercer (23-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 9, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Hawkins Arena (3,500) -- Macon, Georgia. Television:
ESPN2. Home Record: FGCU 15-1, Mercer 15-0. Away Record: FGCU 6-9, Mercer 8-7.
Neutral Record: FGCU 2-0, Mercer 0-3. Conference Record: FGCU 13-5, Mercer
14-4. Series Record: Mercer leads, 10-3.
GAME NOTES: The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles and Mercer Bears will conclude the
Atlantic Sun Conference season as they square off in the Tournament
Championship Game with the winner advancing into this season's Big Dance.
Both sides are deserving of a trip to the NCAA Tournament. FCGU finished
second in the conference with a 13-5 league record while Mercer was just a
game ahead. They split their season-series with one another as the Bears won
on their home court, 77-70, in overtime on Jan. 2 before the Eagles exacted
their revenge on Feb. 28 with a hard-fought, 60-57, victory. Mercer holds a
10-3 all-time series lead.
The Bears have the homecourt advantage in this one thanks to their regular-
season crown. They have won 17 in a row after a perfect 15-0 performance at
Hawkins Arena this season. Mercer played two strong halves on Friday en route
to a 72-64 win over USC Upstate. Bud Thomas scored 20 points and Langston Hall
added 18 in the victory. Travis Smith provided some sharpshooting, going 4-
of-4 from 3-point range and the free-throw line to tally 16 points. Hall
became the 35th member of Mercer's 1,000-point club with 1,010.
Smith leads the team in scoring with 13.4 ppg and converts 42.5 percent from
beyond the arc. Hall adds 11 points and 4.8 assists per outing.
Mercer hit 14 three pointers in the semifinals, which was only three away from
tying the A-Sun Championship record of 17 set by Stetson in 1994. It will be
making its seventh appearance in the A-Sun Championship Finals, which is tied
for the conference record. The Bears own a 2-4 record in title games but the
most previous victory came in 1985.
FCGU has won four games in a row overall including its semifinal, 72-58, rout
of Stetson on Friday. The win made FGCU the first runner-up from the previous
season to return to the title game the following year since Jacksonville in
2009. Sherwood Brown scored 18 points and Bernard Thompson added a double-
double of 12 points and 13 rebounds to power the win. The Eagles went 26-of-59
from the field and led by as many as 16 as they held the Hatters to 33.9
percent efficiency from the floor. Another stout defensive showing may be
enough to earn coach Andy Enfield his first A-Sun title in only his second
year with the Eagles.
Enfield has done a tremendous job turning the program around. The Eagles' 23
wins is a Division I program record; surpassing last year's win total of 15,
which was the previous record. Brown (15.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Thompson (14.1
ppg, 2.9 spg) are regularly big-time contributors for FCGU, which showed how
tough it can be when it upset Miami-Florida on Nov. 13 in an early-season
bout. Thompson is not only an excellent scorer and rebounder, he was also
honored as the conference's defensive player of the year for his frustrating
impact on opposing offenses.
These teams are very evenly matched. One single play could determine the
outcome of this one. The homecourt edge may be just enough to push Mercer to
the automatic berth.
Sports Network Projected Outcome: Mercer 73, Florida Gulf Coast 70
03/09 10:56:49 ET
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