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Atlantic Sun Notebook

February 19, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Atlantic Sun Notebook

by Kristy Shonka

Knights, Bears Control Their Destiny

The University of Central Florida stumbled Thursday against Jacksonville, but with Mercer’s help, the Golden Knights (18-8 overall, 10-3 A-Sun) and the Bears (17-5, 10-2) control their fates heading into the final two weeks of the season.

In a game that pitted the Atlantic Sun South’s top two teams, Mercer came back from a late 11-point deficit against Troy State to beat the Trojans 83-80 Saturday. TSU went into the game with the league’s best record at 10-1, while the Bears sat a game back at 9-2. Now Mercer and Troy State (19-5, 10-2) are tied for first in the South Division, while UCF sits a half game back.

Both Mercer and Troy State have to travel to Orlando this week to play the Knights, who are 5-1 in the A-Sun at home. That means if UCF beats both the Trojans and the Bears and wins its final game at Florida Atlantic the Knights will hold the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament that begins March 6 in Atlanta.

TSU and Mercer both play UCF, FAU, Jacksonville and Stetson to end the season. If they both win out Mercer holds the tiebreaker and would clinch the No. 1 seed. The only way Troy State would be the top seed is if it wins out and UCF beats Mercer.

Belmont’s loss to Jacksonville State on Saturday dropped the Bruins to 9-4 in the conference. They’re still the heavy favorite to win the North Division, but it’s unlikely they will earn the No. 1 seed. Though, second place in the North is up in the air. Jacksonville State and Samford are both 7-6 in the A-Sun and Georgia State is on their tails at 5-7.

All three teams have basement dwellers Campbell and Gardner-Webb left on their schedules, so the x-factor comes with who those third and fourth teams are. Georgia State is the only team with four games left. The Panthers play Jacksonville (12-12, 7-5) Tuesday and Jacksonville State on Friday. GSU lost to JSU in an early season match-up. Samford’s final game of the season comes on the road at Belmont. The Bruins have the league’s best road record, but are only 2-3 at home.

In the South Division, the three-way battle between Mercer, Troy State and UCF should end with those teams taking the top three spots in the division. Jacksonville looks to be the fourth division team that makes it to the tournament.

Mercer Leads Group of Upset Wins

The Bears’ 83-80 upset of Troy State on Saturday was one of three games that saw the team with the better record fall. Jacksonville upset UCF, 80-75, on Thursday and Jacksonville State beat Belmont, 92-87, on Saturday.

In the game that put Mercer in control of its own destiny, the Trojans jumped out to an early 7-1 lead, but the Bears responded to tie the game at 19 with 11 minutes left in the first half. The Bears used a five-minute drought by the Trojans to take a 24-19 lead, but this time it was Troy State who came back and the Trojans held a 37-36 lead at halftime.

Mercer came out firing early, but it didn’t last. Troy State picked up the intensity and gained its biggest lead of the game at 74-63 with 7:09 left in the game. But down 10 with 6:30 left the Bears went to work. They scored 10 straight points to tie the game, before the Trojans’ Greg Davis hit a three-pointer with 2:54 left.

Mercer junior Scott Emerson hit a baseline jumper and Clarence Baker hit two free throws to give the Bears the lead for good. Mercer’s defense stopped the Trojans on their next possession and Wesley Duke nailed two more free throws as Mercer held on for a 83-80 win. TSU’s Marcus Millhouse had a chance to tie the game with an open three-pointer as time expired, but it hit off the back iron.

Games of the Week

The two most important games of the week are UCF’s Thursday showdown with Troy State and Saturday’s game against Mercer. These two games will play a big role in who earns the top seed in the conference tournament.

The Knights beat the Trojans 76-61 back on Jan. 11 in Alabama. Troy State went on a seven-game winning streak after that loss before falling to Mercer on Saturday. Jacksonville avenged its early season loss to the Knights on Thursday, but UCF beat the resurgent Hatters on Saturday to keep itself in the hunt for the regular season hunt.

Mercer handed UCF its worse loss of the season when the two teams met in Georgia Jan. 13. The Bears won 85-63 and have won their last five games.


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