What goes into a 40-point performance? A hot hand, superstitions and a good matchup are just three of the things that have been cited in the past. That accomplishment actually occured twice this past weekend, with Washington State's Klay Thompson and Mercer's James Florence doing the honors. While many already know about Thompson the Mercer senior guard from Marietta, GA hasn't received that kind of attention. Florence returned to school as the nation's leading senior returning scorer and is currently averaging 22.8 points and 4.2 assists per game.
Florence hung forty on Georgia Tech last Saturday and the Bears have pulled off wins over BCS conference opponents in recent years, beating the likes of USC and Alabama. James took some time out of his day to answer some questions ahead of the Bears' big weekend within the Atlantic Sun; Mercer hosts Lipscomb (preseason pick to finish second in the A-Sun) tonight and Belmont (won three straight titles from 2006-08) on Saturday.
Raphielle Johnson: You guys have knocked off BCS conference opponents the past two seasons. Is that something you discuss as a team or is it just a matter of quite confidence?
James Florence: It's more of a quiet confidence (Mercer also took Providence down to the wire on the opening weekend). A lot of our guys had good offers coming out of high school so that helps as well.
RJ: In regards to the Georgia Tech game, was there a point before or during when you had the feeling that it would be a good night (14-20 FG, 40 points)?
JF: Definitely not in shootaround since I didn't shoot well there. I'd say about halfway through the first half; I noticed that their bigs weren't really helping or hedging on (ball) screens.
RJ: What was your reaction when told that the last time an A-Sun player scored 40-plus (Lemyan Wilson of (then) Troy State) was in 2002?
JF: It's crazy; I didn't realize it until my mom told me. I though that [Courtney] Pigram of ETSU would have done it but I guess his numbers were in the high-30s.
RJ: You're shooting a higher percentage from both the field and from three than you have in any of your prior three seasons. Was this something you focused on in the offseason?
JF: I wanted to get my field goal percentage as close to 50% as possible but the one thing Coach [2nd-year head coach Bob Hoffman] wanted me to work on is passing. We've got a lot more weapons this year.
RJ: In regards to those weapons, can you talk about the strengths of F Daniel Emerson and G EJ Kusnyer?
JF (on Emerson, who's averaging 11.2 ppg and 12.8 rpg): He's an extremely hard worker; as a matter of fact he's in the gym right now shooting. He had a tough time scoring against the bigger ACC front lines we've played against (FSU's Solomon Alabi and Georgia Tech's frontcourt) but he's a tough cover and a tenacious rebounder.
JF (on Kusnyer, who's averaging 12.3 ppg and 4.2 rpg): EJ's a dead-eye shooter who can bail us out at the end of the shot clock. Sometimes I'll just run the play over to his side and give him the ball and let him make a play.
RJ: Can you talk about your (and the team's) relationship with Coach Hoffman?
JF: Everybody loves his energy and how positive he is. No disrespect to [former head] Coach [Mark] Slonaker but my skills have improved so much the last two season under Coach Hoffman; he's very good in regards to player development.
RJ: How big of a week is this for you and your teams, facing Lipscomb and Belmont?
JF: It's a huge weekend for us. These are the games that you look back on at the end of the season since they'll have such an effect on seeding [for the conference tournament]. At home against two contenders means that these games are must-wins for us.
RJ: Looking forward to the conference tournament in March, has it been discussed any since you guys are the hosts?
JF: It will be huge for us to be able to sleep in our own beds and not be on such a tight schedule; when we're on the road we can only get into the gym when the hosts tell us we can.
RJ: Do you have any pregame supersititions?
JF: I used to have a lot of them but now I purposely change things up (laughs).
Many thanks to James and Mercer SID Robbie Burns for the interview.