Fort Myers, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The top two seeds will face off in the championship game of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament on Sunday afternoon, as the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles welcome the Mercer Bears to Alico Arena with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament at stake.
As the No. 2 seed in this event, Mercer hosted each of its first two games, taking down Jacksonville in the quarterfinals (69-55) before downing USC Upstate in double overtime in Thursday's semifinals (78-75). The Bears are now 25-8 overall and have held their own away from home, going 8-7.
FGCU earned homecourt advantage throughout this event as the regular-season champion and took advantage early in the tournament with wins over Stetson (77-55) and East Tennessee State (69-64). The Eagles, who won the conference tournament a year ago before reeling off a Cinderella run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament, are 22-11 overall and have won 15-of-16 at Alico Arena.
The teams split the two-game regular-season series, with each side winning on its home floor. Mercer leads the all-time series by an 11-5 count.
After the Bears tied their semifinal matchup in the final minute of regulation and coughed up a lead late in the first overtime, they finally dismissed USC Upstate in the second extra session, with TJ Hallice's bucket with 1:36 left proving to be the game-winner. Although they shot a less-than-stellar 41 percent from the field, they were active and effective from 3-point range, knocking down 14-of-31 from beyond the arc. Langston Hall paced the effort with 21 points and six assists, Jakob Gollon netted 17 points and Anthony White, Jr. connected on 4-of-5 from 3-point range on his way to 21 points.
On the season, no A-Sun team has been more well-rounded than Mercer, which shoots a lofty 47.9 percent from the field for 79.6 ppg while allowing just 66.5 ppg on 40 percent shooting. Hall not only pours in a team-best 14.7 ppg but he also finds time to hand out a league-best 5.7 apg. Daniel Coursey is a mainstay in the frontcourt with 9.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg and 2.1 bpg, while four others chip in between 7.7 and 9.4 ppg.
The Eagles were in trouble late in their most recent bout, as they trailed by one with just over three minutes to play, but they responded with six unanswered points and secured the five-point victory from there. They shot a mere 37.3 percent from the field (including 4-of-23 from 3-point range), but they held ETSU to an even worse 33.3 percent showing. Chase Fieler sparked the effort with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Jamail Jones also tallied a double- double with 10 points and 10 boards, Bernard Thompson scored 14 points and swiped six steals and Brett Comer netted 11.
While not nearly as well-rounded as Mercer, FGCU has nonetheless impressed on both ends of the floor this season, as it outshoots its competition from the floor, 47 percent to 41.4 percent, while boasting positive margins both in terms of scoring (+5.4) and rebounding (+3.1). Thompson leads the way with 15.1 ppg, having knocked down 53 3-pointers and drained just shy of 80 percent of his free-throw tries. Fieler brings 14.2 ppg (on 54.9 percent field goal shooting) and 7.5 rpg to the table, while Comer adds 13.9 ppg and 5.4 apg to the mix.