Florida Gulf Coast downs Mercer for Atlantic Sun Tournament crown
Macon, GA – Brett Comer scored 21 points to lead five Florida Gulf Coast players in double figures, and the Eagles captured their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid with an 88-75 victory over Mercer in the Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship.
Sherwood Brown added 16 points and 11 rebounds while going 4-of-5 from 3-point range to help Florida Gulf Coast (24-10) reach the Big Dance in only its sixth year of existence at the Division I level.
Chase Fieler and Christophe Varidel contributed 15 and 12 points, respectively, for the second-seeded Eagles, who shot 50.8 percent from the field and went 11-of-20 from beyond the arc to deal top-seeded Mercer its first loss on its home floor this season.
Mercer (23-11), which had been 15-0 at Hawkins Arena in 2012-13 and carried a 17-game home win streak into the title game, was paced by Travis Smith's 16 points. Jakob Gollon and Bud Thomas finished with 14 apiece for the Bears.
The Eagles hit on 5-of-8 tries from beyond the arc in the first half, including makes from Bernard Thompson and Varidel as part of an 8-1 run that staked Florida Gulf Coast to a 38-33 lead late in the period. A Gollen trey 1:12 prior to intermission brought Mercer within two at the break, but the Eagles dominated the early portion of the second half to create some distance.
Florida Gulf Coast outscored the Bears by a 11-2 count over the initial three minutes of the final stanza to move in front by double digits. The Eagles knocked down three more triples during the pivotal surge, including back-to- back ones by Comer and Thompson that staked the visitors to a 49-38 advantage.
Mercer got back into it with some 3-point marksmanship of its own, with Gollon and Smith draining consecutive long-distance jumpers to cut the deficit to 56-51 with just under 13 minutes left.
The Bears never got any closer, however, as Florida Gulf Coast went on a 14-3 tear shortly afterward to pull away.
Brown netted the first seven points of the game-sealing run, with Fieler scoring the final seven and giving the Eagles a commanding 72-56 lead on a layup and corresponding free throw with 7:36 remaining.
Florida Gulf Coast was in front by at least 10 points the rest of the way in extending Mercer's NCAA Tournament drought to 28 straight years.
Comer, who was named the tournament's MVP, matched a season-high for points, having also notched 21 in a win at Jacksonville on Feb. 2 ... Since claiming its last conference tournament crown in 1985, Mercer has now lost in each of its last four appearances in the league title game (1995, 1996, 2010, 2013) ... Florida Gulf Coast handed the Bears their most recent loss on their home floor as well, which also took place in the A-Sun Tournament. The sixth-seeded Eagles posted a 62-58 win over No. 2 seed Mercer in last year's semifinals ... The teams split two regular-season meetings, with Mercer coming away with a 77-70 home victory in January and the Eagles recoring a 60-57 triumph in Fort Myers on Feb. 28.