For different reasons, Susie Gardner and Bob Hoffman are as happy as anybody that A-Sun play is resuming.
On the other hand, a few more days before that happens wouldn’t be bad.
Mercer’s women are off a record-setting 128-42 loss to No. 3 Notre Dame and have lost three straight while the men have played five road games in 13 days.
Nevertheless, Mercer welcomes Florida Gulf Coast on Monday in a women’s/men’s doubleheader as conference play begins in earnest.
Mercer’s women (3-10, 1-1) have the unenviable task of having only a few days to recover from the Friday night rout by Notre Dame, as well as last Wednesday’s defensive stumble in a loss to Winthrop. And then they have only a day before A-Sun tourney champ Stetson comes to town.
“First of all, you just have to compete, no matter what,” Mercer junior Ry’van Buchanan said. “We should just take this loss and break down our weaknesses and take what we did good from it, too. We have to take it and run with it.”
Notre Dame shot 80 percent in the first half as the Bears, without point guard Sharnea Boykin (concussion), attacked the press and traps poorly.
“I didn’t stay in the locker room very long,” Gardner said of the Notre Dame game. “I asked them what they got out of that, and they said the right answer, probably what they knew I wanted them to say, (which) was what tough felt like.”
Now that the Bears are done with the likes of Auburn, Georgia and Notre Dame, they’ll see how much of that pays off.
And FGCU is rolling, as has been the case since it joined the A-Sun. The Eagles are 64-12 in conference play since becoming a member in 2007-08 and have been to four straight Women’s National Invitation Tournaments.
The lone losses this season have been to Seton Hall by six and N.C. State by five. The Eagles won eight straight in between the losses, including wins over Michigan State, East Tennessee State, Central Florida and Virginia Tech.
FGCU is No. 4 in the latest Collegeinsider.com mid-major poll and finished a three-game swing in Hawaii on Friday. The Eagles lost 69-64 to N.C. State and beat Hawaii and Alcorn State by a combined 77 points.
Nicoya Jackson is seventh in the A-Sun with 13.6 points a game, a little ahead of teammate Sarah Hansen.
Mercer’s defense will again be put to the test against FGCU’s disciplined offense, which averages 12.6 made 3-pointers a game.
Amber Rechis and Eglah Griffin are 1-2 in the A-Sun at 57.7 percent and 50 percent on 3-pointers.
“Florida Gulf Coast is really good,” Gardner said. “They’re going to do a lot of backdoor cutting, just as Notre Dame did on us (Friday) night.”
Mercer and FGCU are two of four men’s teams at 1-1 in conference play, along with Stetson -- which visits Mercer on Wednesday -- and Lipscomb.
The Eagles are 5-7 and on a two-game winning streak, knocking off Toledo 83-80 and Maine 84-72.
FGCU is led by new head coach Andy Enfield, and the Eagles are improved despite the losing record. The only loss by double figures is 60-50 at Miami around Thanksgiving. The other six defeats -- including at SMU, Maryland and Nebraska -- have come by a total of 17 points.
“We’re playing a really good team,” Hoffman said. “They’ve played a lot of good people close.”
Mercer is home after five straight on the road, the trip starting on Dec. 18 at Seton Hall, an 80-77 overtime loss. A sluggish second half led to a 72-58 loss at Georgia, but the Bears responded with clutch play in a 65-59 win two nights later at Georgia Tech.
They couldn’t get over the hump in losing 68-62 at Tulsa, but they came back with a strong second half in a 65-56 win at Navy on Friday.
Langston Hall and Jake Gollon are sixth and seventh in the conference in assists with 3.7 and 3.6, while Daniel Coursey leads with a 65.1-percent shooting mark. Gollon is 11th with six rebounds a game and Hall eighth with 12.8 points.
Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson team for 23.5 points for the Eagles while sophomore Christophe Varidel adds 11, on 52.6-percent 3-point shooting.
FGCU outshoots opponents 46.1-40.1 percent overall and 39.9-33.1 percent on 3s.
“They’re executing their stuff at a high level.” Hoffman said. “To have a team field goal percentage of 46 percent after that, usually that means in conference, it’s going to go up a little bit. They’re so good at running their stuff.”