Gardner looking forward to FSU challenge
The Mercer men’s and women’s basketball teams get another chance to showcase their programs and Hawkins Arena the next two days.
That starts Wednesday when the Mercer women host Florida State at 7 p.m. Florida State is ranked seventh in this week’s AP poll and 11-1 overall with its only loss coming by two points to UConn.
On Thursday, the Mercer men host La Salle, a member of Philadelphia’s Big 5 programs, also at 7 p.m.
“The last time we did this we had Notre Dame come here, and quite frankly our program was not ready to host a Notre Dame team,” Mercer women’s head coach Susie Gardner said of a loss to No. 3 Notre Dame during the 2011-12 season. “I’m not saying we’re ready to host a Florida State, but we’re also a different team than we were ever how many years ago it was. So hopefully we can compete with them a little bit.”
Gardner’s team is off to a 9-2 start with the losses coming to Georgia (72-64) and Georgia Tech (70-50). The Bears are off to their best start under Gardner.
Sue Semrau’s Florida State team’s roster includes Middle Georgia products Ivey Slaughter (Tattnall Square) and Nausia Woolfolk (Peach County).
“Honestly, Florida State could be in the Final Four this year. Sue’s done a great job for many, many years, but this is a special team,” Gardner said. “They lost to UConn by two, and they didn’t even have their point guard, their starting point guard. They’re a special team. I know that Sue’s got them playing on all cylinders. They’re very, very deep. Ivey Slaughter’s coming home to Macon. There probably is going to be a good Florida State crowd.
“Georgia, Georgia Tech is one thing; not taking anything away from them. Florida State is next level, a potential Final Four team.”
Bob Hoffman’s Mercer men’s team is 5-6 after losing Sunday at Auburn on a buzzer-beating 3-point shot. La Salle is 5-4, including losses to Temple, Villanova and Georgetown.
“La Salle is a storied program, won a national championship, coming here out of the Atlantic 10,” Hoffman said. “We know what that division, that conference has done. They’re going to have multiple teams from the league in the NCAA Tournament. They took Villanova down to the wire. They’ve had tremendous wins and had some tough losses just like us. So I know it’s going to be an exciting game, and we’re looking forward to a tough ballgame against a really good basketball team.”