The talk going in had been about offense and dunks.
The game turned out to be about defense and offensive funks: Mercers defense, Florida Gulf Coasts funks.
Our guys played at a high level on the defensive end for multiple defensive possessions, Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman said. It was special to watch.
Mercer held Florida Gulf Coast to 27.3 percent shooting in the second half and a remarkable 1-for-17 from 3-point range for the game in Thursdays 68-55 win in a battle of A-Sun co-leaders.
The Bears took sole possession of first place with the win and will try to avoid a letdown when they host Stetson and head coach Corey Williams, a Northeast graduate, at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Stetson faces a team coming off a game that turned out to be a fairly workmanlike and routine win against the defending A-Sun tournament champs, pretty much eliminating the expected suspense early in the second half.
Mercer shot seven percentage points below normal, 13.2 percent lower at the free-throw line and 5.5 percent below its 3-point standard and got no second-half points from Bud Thomas and a 2-for-8 shooting night from Jake Gollon.
But Florida Gulf Coasts struggles in the second 20 minutes added up to its worst shooting half of the season.
Their team defense is great; it always is, said Florida Gulf Coasts Chase Fieler, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds. We were ready for it. We just didnt finish as well as we should have.
Florida Gulf Coasts Brett Comer, Fieler and Bernard Thompson accounted for 80 percent of the teams points, with starter Jamail Jones going scoreless in 28 minutes.
The margin of victory for the Bears matched that of the Eagles victory in the last meeting at Hawkins Arena, 88-75, in the A-Sun tournament title game.
Their defense was very good, and our defense wasnt, Florida Gulf Coast head coach Joe Dooley said. We gave up layups. Thats one of the things we emphasized: no easy baskets. And we gave up a ton of easy baskets.
Langston Hall had 18 points -- 13 in the second half -- and 11 assists -- eight in the first half -- while Daniel Coursey had 14 points and 12 rebounds. Thursday was the first time two Bears recorded double-doubles since Brian Mills and Daniel Emerson in December of 2009 against Piedmont.
Coursey took over the programs top spot on the career blocks list with four, passing Wesley Duke (173, 1999-2005).
Mercer won the bench scoring battle 20-7 -- mirroring the margin of victory -- keyed by Monty Brown (six points in eight minutes), Ike Nwamu (six points, six rebounds and three assists) and Darius Moten (six points in 13 minutes).
But the Bears quickly have turned their focus to the Hatters.
I think it was one of those situations that weve had multiple occasions to endure already, where youve got to get ready for the next thing, Hoffman said. Weve had some great wins and tough circumstances, and that was another good win for us.
I dont know that it really matters how it comes about. Youve just got to get prepared, get up and get ready to do what you do.