Several times in recent years, Jacksonville has done a quick turnaround and played the same team twice in an eight-day period.
But never have the Dolphins had to face a team twice in a four-day stretch, with both games on the opponent’s home floor.
That’s what No. 7 seed JU (12-17) will face Tuesday night in an opening round game of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament when the Dolphins take on regular-season co-champ and No. 2 seed Mercer (23-8).
Mercer beat the Dolphins 69-55 on Saturday, a game Jacksonville trailed by just two points with 5½ minutes left. But Mercer put together a 16-4 surge to finish off the Dolphins.
Still, JU coach Cliff Warren was encouraged by a 10-minute stretch of the second half when the Dolphins reduced an 18-point deficit to two at the 5:31 mark.
“I thought we persevered through some adverse situations in that second half in making our comeback,” Warren said. “We kept our cool, stayed calm and played hard.”
Warren also liked what he saw in the locker room after the game and the following day.
“What was very encouraging, even before I got into the locker room to meet with the team, there was already a buzz, some chatter by the guys who were already looking forward to playing Mercer again in a couple of days,” the JU coach said. “I think they understood what they did right and what they did wrong right away.
“The next morning at breakfast, they had that attitude of ‘… hey we were right there. We just need a little extra effort defensively and in the rebounding game. I was very encouraged to hear that kind of talk.”
This marks the eighth time that Jacksonville has closed the regular season and met that same team in the first game of the conference tournament. In the three years where JU lost the regular season finale, the Dolphins won the subsequent postseason contest.
Playing the same team at the same location actually worked to Jacksonville’s advantage. The Dolphins stayed in the Macon area the rest of the weekend and took the day off Sunday.
The Bears have the conference’s Player of the Year in senior guard Langston Hall and Defensive Player of the Year in senior center Daniel Coursey.