Mercer was right there, for a good chunk of the first half, against the No. 4 team in the CollegeInsider.com poll.
The Bears were tied through eight minutes with the best team in the A-Sun, and then they were down only four midway through the first half.
Less than four minutes later, it was all but over.
Florida Gulf Coast took advantage of a slow-reacting defense to score on penetration and the perimeter and pull away for a 98-50 win Monday evening at the University Center.
The Eagles took a little while to start doing their thing. But when they did, control was theirs the rest of the way.
It was 22-18 after Mercer’s Jasmine Blakemore hit an 18-footer.
FGCU went on a 13-0 run to take control, and then the Eagles ended the half with a 16-6 surge in the final 4:40 to take a 51-27 halftime lead.
The salt in Mercer’s wound was a 3-pointer with a second left in the half by Kelsey Jacobson.
It was her eighth 3-pointer of the game, and she was one long shot away from matching Mercer’s first-half total. The aggravation for head coach Susie Gardner was that Jacobson was yet again open for a shot.
“We told them that No. 10, 90 percent of her shots are from 3,” Gardner said. “Any time a player is shooting the ball that well …”
FGCU was 14-of-26 on 3-pointers, 32-of-65 from the floor. Mercer was 5-of-19 on 3s.
Jacobson finished 8-of-9 on 3s for 24 points, while Sarah Hansen added 15 points and Whitney Knight had 10.
Ry’van Buchanan led Mercer with 11 points while Alicia Williams added 10.
Mercer (3-11, 1-2) hosts defending A-Sun tournament champion Stetson -- 12-3 and 3-0 after Monday’s 65-55 win at Kennesaw State -- at 5 p.m. on Wednesday and then heads to East Tennessee State on Saturday. FGCU (11-2, 3-0) is at Kennesaw State on Wednesday.
FGCU improved to 9-0 against Mercer after its biggest win in the series.
“At practice (Sunday), there was a lot of energy, a lot of talking,” Gardner said. “Then (Monday), for whatever reason, that same energy, that same passion, it wasn’t in the shooting practice. There wasn’t that same energy, not in the shootaround.
“It was the deadest locker room I’ve been in before a game in my career.”
The Bears fell for fakes or were slow to switch on defense and turned it over 26 times on offense, leading to 35 FGCU points.
Inconsistency on both sides of the court plagued Mercer again.
The Bears held the Eagles to a 5-of-14 start from the floor through the first eight minutes, but FGCU went 13-for-22 the rest of the first half to finish at 50 percent. Mercer wasn’t doing badly from the floor at 46.2 percent, but the Bears didn’t take a free throw until the 8:21 mark of the second half. The Eagles were 15-of-16 by that point and had been whistled for only six fouls.
FGCU was 20-of-22 at the line, Mercer 1-of-3.
“We don’t get to the free-throw line,” Gardner said. “We don’t have players who will take it to the hole to draw fouls. We have players who take it to the hole and shoot fadeaways. When you shoot fadeaways, you’re not going to draw fouls.
“About four straight times, we passed it inside to our posts, another way to get fouls. And we turned it over. The way you get fouls is by getting the ball inside and having a low-post presence that can go up and draw one, draw two. Or you have penetration, take it strong to the hole with the intention of drawing the foul.”