For most of the opening 20 minutes, the word attack wasnt how Florida Gulf Coast approached Mercers zone.
The Eagles didnt attack the gaps and werent too sharp from outside and thus found themselves in a tight game with undermanned Mercer.
Then came halftime.
After finishing the first half with some nice scoring possessions for a little room, Florida Gulf Coast hit three straight 3-pointers to gain some separation en route to a 69-57 win Saturday afternoon over Mercer in A-Sun womens basketball.
I was happy with our execution in the second half, Florida Gulf Coast head coach Karl Smesko said. We did a better job against the zone doing the things that we wanted to do.
And Mercer head coach Susie Gardner had to call an early second-half timeout once again, something she pointed out after Thursdays loss to Stetson had become too common a need.
A 10-point game had become a 17-point game in short order, thanks to two 3-pointers from Whitney Knight and one from Stephanie Haas.
Thats an area weve got to address, which weve already addressed, Gardner said. But weve got to find a solution.
Actually, Mercer responded well to that flurry, with its own 6-0 run in less than 90 seconds to get back within 11 points.
But the Eagles answered with a 7-0 run, keyed by yet another 3-pointer by Knight, to boost their lead to 18 and force a Mercer timeout with 13:43 remaining.
We knew they shot 3s, Mercer guard Sharnea Boykin said. (3-pointers) can get you up quick and they shot a lot of 3s. Our problem was not rebounding.
Florida Gulf Coast looked more like itself with better defense, improved attacking of the zone, transition points and sharper shooting, opening a 30-point margin with 9:26 left as part of a 21-2 run.
Florida Gulf Coast improved to 13-0 against Mercer, including 11-1 at Hawkins Arena, and to 11-6 overall and 5-0 in conference play.
The Eagles are now tied with Jacksonville atop the standings, thanks to the Dolphins 67-56 win Saturday over the Norse, who were 5-0 in A-Sun play.
Mercer fell to 9-8 and 2-4. Briana Williams led Mercer with 20 points. Sharnea Boykin had 15 and Kendra Grant 11.
Knight topped all scorers with 18 points, while Kaneisha Atwater added 14 and Stephanie Haas 11.
Shooting was rough early for both teams. At the media timeout with 3:08 left in the first half, Florida Gulf Coast was 7-for-25 from the floor and Mercer 7-for-24. The Eagles had a 23-18 lead at the time.
Florida Gulf Coast delivered a body blow with a pair of scoring possessions inside the final two minutes.
Atwater drained a 3 from the right side as the shot-clock horn sounded, Mercer went one and done, and then the Eagles took advantage of a slow defense for a transition layup by Anthi Chatzigiakoumi with 45 seconds left.
That gave Florida Gulf Coast its first double-digit lead since the 9:39 mark as the Bears kept rallying and the Eagles couldnt pull away.
Mercer had gotten to within 17-16 with a 9-0 run featuring two Briana Williams 3-pointers, the second making it a 1-point game at the 6:53 mark.
The Bears couldnt take the lead, and Knights layup with 4 seconds left returned the lead to 10, 32-22 at halftime.
At that point, twice as many Eagles had scored (eight) as Bears. Of course, Mercer only had nine in uniform and only eight were likely to play.
Mercer did cut the 30-point deficit down to 12 in the final minute, thanks in part to a 15-for-16 afternoon at the line.
We battled to the end, we didnt quit, Gardner said. (But) weve got to be able to come out at halftime with more of a sense of urgency and not let a lead balloon to a larger lead.