FORT MYERS, Fla. - Mercer senior Shari Smith booked her third-straight double-double and junior Kendra Grant notched the 500th point of her career as the Bears suffered an 89-62 defeat at the hands of Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday evening at Alico Arena.
Mercer's loss coupled with Stetson's defeat of Kennesaw State to tie the Bears and Hatters in the Atlantic Sun standings with 13-4 records. The teams are set to square off on Saturday afternoon in DeLand, Florida with the No. 2 seed in the upcoming conference tournament on the line.
Mercer's overall record slipped to 19-9 with the team's first road loss in conference play. The Eagles improved to 24-5 (18-0 A-Sun) with their 18th-straight win.
Grant tallied a team-high 15 points in the loss while Smith registered 13 points and a career-high 19 rebounds. Sophomore guard Precious Bridges joined them in double-figure scoring with 14 points.
Over the last three games, Smith is averaging 11.3 points and 15.3 rebounds.
The Eagles rode a groundswell of support from a capacity crowd to a 10-2 lead at the first media timeout. Before the first media timeout, Grant was fouled on a three pointer and ultimately Grant cashed in on all three tosses when play resumed.
Grant's first shot of the series marked the 500th point of her career in just her 70th game played. Moments later, Smith scored a driving layup to keep matters tight at 13-7 with 15:08 before half.
After Smith's layup, the Eagles tore off a 17-6 run in 5:21 of game time to assume a 30-11 advantage. During the stretch, the Eagles shot six-of-10 from the floor including three-of-three aim from beyond the arc.
The hosts would go in front by as many as 26 before assuming a 51-26 halftime lead on the strength of 56.7% (17-of-30) shooting from the floor and six-of-six shooting from three point distance.
The Eagles started the second half with a 9-4 scoring edge before a gritty drive resulted in an old-fashioned three-point play by Tabitha Bradshaw momentarily quieted the crowd. Later in the half, the Eagles were on top by 31 when Mercer employed an 11-1 surge in just over two minutes to close within 21. The stretch proved to be too-little, too-late as the Eagles would go back in front by as many as 29 before the game's conclusion.
Mercer concludes the regular season in a 1 p.m. tip at the Edmunds Center on Saturday.