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Sellout Crowd, National TV Audience Awaits @FGCU_MBB and Mercer Clash Friday Night
|Stats at a Glance||MER||FGCU|
|FG Percentage||.344 (21-61)||.460 (23-50)|
|3P FG Percentage||.250 (5-20)||.294 (5-17)|
|FT Percentage||.636 (14-22)||.649 (24-37)|
FIELER - 1
Mercer (21-6, 12-2 A-Sun)
DUNK CITY, Fla. – Looking to move into a first-place tie in the Atlantic Sun Conference standings, the FGCU men’s basketball team (17-10, 11-3 A-Sun) is set to battle Mercer (21-6, 12-2 A-Sun) in front of a standing-room-only Alico Arena sellout crowd on national TV (ESPNU) Friday at 6 p.m. in arguably the most anticipated A-Sun game of the year.
WHAT TO KNOW
• Fans are encouraged to wear white to create a ‘Whiteout’ atmosphere in Alico Arena.
• All non-student tickets were accounted for early last week already, and the last of the 1,500 student tickets were picked up Wednesday, marking the earliest a game has ever sold out in FGCU history.
• Beasley Broadcasting is the presenting game sponsor.
• The FGCU men’s soccer team will be honored at halftime as its 2013 A-Sun regular-season championship banner is unveiled.
• Boxes will be available in the lobby as donations to the on-campus Harry Chapin Food Bank continue to be accepted.
• Friday marks Azul’s, FGCU’s official mascot, birthday and several other local mascots will be in attendance.
HOW TO FOLLOW
The game will be FGCU’s ninth televised contest of the year, fifth on national TV and third home TV broadcast. ESPNU is in high definition on the following channels: DirecTV (208), DISH Network (141) and local Comcast (396). The game can also be accessed on ESPN3.com (link at the top of this release) and via the WatchESPN mobile app. Roy Philpott will handle the play-by-play duties, with Mark Wise serving as the analyst.
ESPN Radio 99.3 FM will also carry the game locally with Mark Miller on the call. Fans outside the area can access the broadcast online by clicking the link at the top of the release and can also listen over the iRadioNow app. Live in-game and behind-the-scenes updates will be available through Twitter @FGCU_MBB, and live stats can be accessed by following the link at the top of the release.
SETTING THE STAGE
FGCU and Mercer renew their budding rivalry as the top-two teams in the league. The Bears have a one-game lead over the Eagles, but the Green and Blue will pull even at 12-3 with a win Friday night. ETSU and USC Upstate are tied for third place at 9-6, while UNF is in fifth place at 8-6 and Lipscomb is in sixth at 7-8. The bottom four teams in the league each have five conference wins or fewer entering play on Thursday.
Mercer and FGCU have three games remaining after Friday’s clash. Mercer defeated FGCU in the first meeting last month in Macon, 68-55, but with an Eagles’ win the two sides would split the season series. If the teams finished the regular season tied, the first tiebreaker would be record against the third-place team. FGCU holds the tiebreaker over USC Upstate (2-0) and UNF (2-0), but not ETSU (1-1). Mercer holds the tiebreaker over ETSU (2-0), but not USC Upstate (1-1) or UNF (1-1).
TWEETABLES (4 Things To Know In 140 Characters Or Less)
• FGCU is coming off back-to-back games of 80+ points (81 at ETSU, 84 at USC Upstate) for the first time this year.
• Bernard Thompson has scored 47 points (23, 24) in the last two games, tied for the most in any two-game stretch in the junior’s career.
• FGCU junior Brett Comer is 5th in A-Sun history in career assists (568), and Mercer’s senior Langston Hall is 3rd (588).
• FGCU and Mercer rank 1st and 2nd in the A-Sun in scoring defense, scoring margin, field-goal percentage and defensive rebounding.
Dating back to last year, FGCU has won 17 of its past 18 home games, and boasts a 26-2 record at Alico Arena since the start of the 2012-13 campaign: (Losses: Lipscomb, Iona). Last year, 10 of FGCU’s 11 losses came away from Alico Arena, and so far this season only one of the Eagles’ losses have occurred inside the friendly confines of The Nest where they are 11-1.
FGCU is better in every key statistical category at home than on the road with the exception of free-throw shooting. The Eagles are connecting at a 67.8-percent clip (158-233) in their 13 road games (5-8) and 64.1 percent (150-234) at home. FGCU’s lone home loss came at the hands of hot-shooting Iona at the end of Thanksgiving break. The Gaels are 17-8 on the year and in first place in the MAAC at 14-2.
Friday’s game will be FGCU’s fourth standing-room-only crowd of the year (4,633 – max capacity) and ninth sellout (4,333 – not including 300 standing-room-only seats). Prior to this year, FGCU never had a standing-room-only sellout and only had one sellout (4,552 vs. Miami last year) in program history.
FGCU leads the A-Sun in home attendance at more than 4,200 per game – nearly 40 percent more than the next closest team (ETSU, 2,551). Furthermore, in their seven A-Sun games, the Eagles are averaging nearly 4,400 fans per game – 38 percent more than the next closest team, Mercer, and the 2,708 it is averaging over seven games.
• Mercer is coming off an 89-67 win at home against Northern Kentucky and has now won three straight games and 11 of its past 12 contests. Mercer’s two losses have come at UNF (89-83) and at USC Upstate (80-61).
• Mercer, like FGCU, is 7-0 at home in A-Sun play; however, on the year the Bears are 14-0 at home overall but only 7-6 on the road as all their losses have come away from Hawkins Arena.
• The Bears – who start five seniors – are ranked inside the top-30 in the nation in 16 different statistical categories. Mercer leads the nation in total assists with 469, rank sixth in assists per game with 17.4, seventh in total rebounds (1049) and ninth in scoring margin at +14.4.
• Looking further into the Brett Comer/Langston Hall matchup, Hall leads the A-Sun in assists at 5.8 while Comer is second at 5.4 – the only two players in the league who average more than 5 assists per game. Comer has 13 career double-figure assist games while Hall has five.
• FGCU and Mercer were picked to finish 1st and 2nd, respectively, in both the A-Sun preseason coaches poll and media poll.
• Hall leads the Bears with 14.7 points per game, while Daniel Coursey paces them in rebounding at 6.7 per outing.
TRACKING THE RIVALRY
Mercer leads the all-time series with FGCU, 11-4; however, since the start of the 2011-12 season the Bears are only 4-3 against FGCU. Two years ago, Mercer won both regular-season meetings before FGCU dispatched of the Bears in the A-Sun semifinals on Mercer’s home floor. Last season, Mercer won the first meeting in Macon before FGCU bounced back with a win at home and then defeated the Bears on their home floor again in the tournament, this time in the A-Sun final.
CLOSING IN ON HISTORY
Thompson (Conyers, Ga./Rockdale County HS) needs just two steals to tie and three steals to break FGCU’s all-time steals record of 194 held by Bryan Crislip. Additionally, the junior needs only six field goals to tie and seven to break the program’s all-time field goals made mark of 462 held by Ryan Hopkins.
FGCU posted a season-high 14 steals against USC Upstate last Saturday. Thompson recorded a season-high five himself, while Comer (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park HS) also had a season best with four. Thompson, who is the nation’s leading returning steals leader from last year, has had multiple steals in four straight games. Twelve of his 33 pilfers on the year have come in the last four games.
PLAYER QUICK HITS
Dajuan Graf (Charlotte, N.C./Phillip O. Berry Academy): Scored 10 points against USC Upstate Saturday, just the second time he’s tallied double figures in A-Sun play.
Jamail Jones (Atlanta, Ga./Montverde Academy/Marquette): Netted 14 points at Upstate and 13 at ETSU, marking his first back-to-back double-figure scoring games since Nov. 15 and 18.
Thompson: Led FGCU in rebounding (6) at USC Upstate for the first time this year.
IN THE A-SUN
Thompson is tied for 3rd in the A-Sun in scoring (16.0) ... Chase Fieler (Parkersburg, W. Va./Parkersburg South HS) is tied for 2nd in rebounding (7.3) ... Comer is 2nd in assists (5.4) ... Nate Hicks (Panama City Beach, Fla./J.R. Arnold HS/Georgia Tech) is tied for 3rd in blocks per game (1.4).
As a team, FGCU is second in scoring defense (66.7), second in scoring margin (+4.7), second in field-goal percentage (47.5) and second in defensive rebounding (26.4).
LAST TIME VS. MERCER
Fieler recorded the fifth double-double of his season with 13 points and 10 rebounds and Thompson added a game-high 21 points, but it wasn’t enough for FGCU to overcome a 35-percent shooting performance, including just 1-17 from 3-point range, as the Eagles fell, 68-55, to host Mercer in front of a sellout crowd in Hawkins Arena.
Thompson led FGCU in scoring, tallying 14 of his points in the first half and 11 in the opening 10 minutes and 30 seconds. Fieler grabbed exactly 10 boards and Comer added 10 points, five rebounds and a team-best four assists.
Trailing 34-28 at the half, the Eagles trimmed their deficit to only two points, 34-32, early in the second half. However, over the next 12 minutes, the Bears – who have now won 44 of their last 48 games at home – went on a 25-7 run to take a 59-39 lead with 6:30 to play. The Green and Blue fought back to make it a single-digit game on two occasions, but ultimately dropped to 0-7 against the Bears on the road in the regular season.
FGCU remains at home for Senior Day against Kennesaw State on Sunday, Feb. 23, at 1:30 p.m.
For Atlantic Sun Conference Championship ticket information and sales, visit the Alico Arena Ticket Office, call 239-590-7145 or log on to FGCUAthletics.com.