Mercer claims sole possession of first following win over Florida Gulf Coast
A very surprising thing happened late in the showdown between the top two teams in the A-Sun.
Some folks got up and left early.
That was highly unexpected. And it was pretty much appreciated by the home team.
Mercer established a double-digit lead five minutes into the second half and then withstood a late rally for a 68-55 win Thursday night over Florida Gulf Coast in front of an overflow crowd at Hawkins Arena.
Most stayed around for the final buzzer to enjoy all of the solid win that could have been revenge for the Bears.
I dont think so exactly, Mercer guard Langston Hall said. But we wanted to beat them because this is a little rivalry we have going on, and were both at the top of the standings.
That changed around 9 p.m, with Mercer improving to 16-5 overall and 7-1 in the A-Sun, taking sole possession of first. Florida Gulf Coast fell to 12-9 and 6-2.
Mercer welcomes Stetson, led by head coach and Macon native Corey Williams, on Saturday.
They just dominated the whole game, really, Florida Gulf Coast guard Bernard Thompson said. We couldnt catch back up.
Basketball is a game of runs. We knew they were going to make runs, we were going to make runs. But we just couldnt control the game.
The Bears led by 20 at the 6:47 mark of the second half, only for the Eagles to naturally start coming back.
Florida Gulf Coast finally got back within single digits on Filip Cvjeticanins jumper with 1:58 left and again on Brett Comers runner with 69 seconds to go.
The clock was on Mercers side the rest of the way.
Comer fouled out with 43 seconds left and had some humor about him, teasing Mercers students by not sitting down. They patiently continued the sit down cheer, and he never complied, chugging water and smiling a few times.
But that was a mere moral victory for the Eagles, who spent most of the second half trying to climb out of a hole.
Hall and Daniel Coursey, however, controlled the game.
The seniors turned in double-doubles, Hall with 18 points and 11 assists, Coursey with 14 points and 12 rebounds, plus four blocks and three steals.
This guy played the best game of his life, Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said, nodding to Coursey. He got him some passes that were amazing. But this guy mightve been the best defensive post player in any game Ive been a part of.
He had a huge stretch early in the second half that gave Mercer the separation it played with most of the rest of the way.
He slid down low to pick off a pass, then hit his turnaround one-hander on the offensive side. Coursey then blocked Comers driving pass to force a turnover that led to a point, and followed with another block and rebound on Florida Gulf Coasts next trip, which Hall made hurt with a 3-pointer.
That put the Bears up 45-32 with 14:39 left in the game.
The lead grew to 20 and fell to nine, but the Eagles werent sharp enough to make any more progress.
Thompson led all scorers with 21, while Chase Fieler added 13 and Comer 10 for the Eagles, who had only six players score, three in the first half.
Mercer held Florida Gulf Coast to 35 percent shooting, its second-lowest mark of the season. The Eagles were a rough 1-for-17 on 3-pointers, while the Bears shot 41.4 percent overall but only 60 percent at the line.
Thompson had half of his teams points at halftime. The Bears were balanced with eight in the scoring column -- to three for the Eagles -- with Bud Thomas leading the way at the break with nine points. Coursey was already close to a double-double with eight points and seven rebounds, as was Hall with five points and eight assists on 13 Mercer baskets.
Mercer went from tied at 17 to a 30-21 lead with 5:47 left in the first half.
Courseys baseline hook more than a minute later provided the first double-digit margin of the game, but the Bears went scoreless the final 3:14 and settled for a 34-28 halftime lead.
They improved on that in the second half.
For the most part, they controlled, especially the second half, controlled the pace of the game and controlled the game, Florida Gulf Coast head coach Joe Dooley said. We tried a couple different things. nothing that we did was ...
We had a couple different ways we were going to play it. We tried it and it wasnt very effective, obviously.