The implications don't get that much bigger in regular season conference play then Friday night's nationally televised game between the Mercer Bears and Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. Mercer came into the game with a 12-2 Atlantic Sun mark and were looking to bring the ASun Championship to their home floor for the fifth straight year. Florida Gulf Coast was right behind Mercer at 11-3 and wanted to win their first ASun regular season championship ever.
Both teams came into tonight riding a hot hand but the biggest advaantage that seemed to standout was the Eagles 11-1 mark in Alico Arena this year. FGCU also had revenge on their mind after losing at Mercer 68-55 last month. Mercer's point guard Langston Hall shredded Dunk City in that one with 18 points and 11 assists, while Daniel Coursey added 14 points and 12 boards.
Traditionally this was a series dominated by Mercer as they won nine of their first ten games against the Eagles, but over the schools last five meetings the Eagles have taken three wins including bouncing from the 2012 ASun Tournament and beating the Bears in last year's conference championship.
The game started slow and sloppy but a pair of runs finally turned up the tempo a little. Mercer would strike first going on a quick 8-1 run but FGCU answered back with a 9-0 run of their own. When the dust settled at halftime the Eagles would hold a slight 26-23 lead thanks to an 11 rebound advantage over the Bears, 9 of which were from Jamail Jones. The two point guards that you expected to have the biggest impact on the game, Mercer's Langston Hall and FGCU's Brett Comer, lived up to their billing in the first half. Hall had 10 points, while Comer had 8.
Florida Gulf Coast slowly expanded their lead until it reach they exploded on a 12-0 run to go up 54-40 and force a Mercer timeout with just about seven minutes to play in the half. Unfortunately that run would be the back-breaker in this game and the Eagles would cruise to 75-61 win.
Jamail Jones finished the night with 11 points and 13 rebounds, while Brett Comer lead the Eagles with 15 points. Langston Hall finished with a game high 16 points for the Mercer Bears. The biggest discrepancy in the game was the Eagles absolute domination of the boards, as they out-rebounded Mercer 48-29.
Both teams are now 12-3 in the Atlantic Sun but Florida Gulf Coast holds the tiebreaker because they swept third place USC Upstate while Mercer split with the Spartans. FGCU will end their final week of the season with a home match up against Kennesaw State on Sunday and then two games on the road against Lipscomb and Northern Kentucky. Mercer will play at Stetson on Sunday and then head home to host North Florida and Jacksonville. The Bears are going to need a little help to avoid heading back to Alico Arena.