Four days into the new year, Mercer’s women scored 84 points in a loss to Stetson, the defending A-Sun tournament champion and No. 20 in the latest national mid-major poll.
In the three ensuing games, Mercer scored 46, 56 and 51 points and lost by 26, 21 and 24 to teams with losing records.
Which Mercer team shows up is a guess when the Bears host Jacksonville in A-Sun women’s basketball Thursday night.
Jacksonville is tied for third in the A-Sun with Belmont, both at 4-3. The Dolphins (6-12 overall) and Bruins are a 2.5 games behind Stetson and 3.5 behind Florida Gulf Coast, the only two teams in the conference with a winning overall record.
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Mercer is 1-6 in A-Sun play and 3-15 overall, both records matched by Lipscomb. USC Upstate is a game ahead of both at 2-5 and 3-15.
Jacksonville has some momentum, courtesy of a quality homestand against the northern part of the conference.
The Dolphins topped USC Upstate 80-72 on Thursday and then hammered East Tennessee State 70-44 on Saturday. Those two teams beat Mercer 72-46 and 77-56 earlier this month.
The Bears are struggling on offense, shooting 34 percent from the field and 26.5 percent on 3-pointers. Forwards Ry’van Buchanan and Shari Smith are the lone Bears shooting better than 38 percent, Buchanan at 47.1 and Smith at 45.9. Buchanan is also a superb 52 percent on 3-pointers (13-of-25).
Buchanan averages 10.6 points, behind Briana Williams’ 14.5 points. Buchanan suffered a concussion-like injury against Kennesaw State and is out for Jacksonville.
Opponents are shooting 47.7 percent against Mercer, 38.9 percent on 3-pointers. And they have a big advantage at the line: Opponents are 360-for-499 on free throws to 175-of-268 for Mercer.
Jacksonville’s numbers in some of the same areas aren’t substantially better.
Teams are outshooting the Dolphins 41.4-33 percent, and Jacksonville is making 25.4 percent of its 3s. But the Dolphins have a better assist-turnover ratio and get nearly three more steals per game.
Crystal Bell averages 12.9 points and Tracie Sneed 10.7 for the Dolphins, and that pair teams for 13.2 rebounds.
Mercer, amid an eight-game losing streak, hosts North Florida (6-12, 3-4) on Saturday as part of a women’s/men’s doubleheader.
Jacksonville at Mercer
7 p.m., Thursday