Bears run past Catamounts in 27th straight conference win

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Bears run past Catamounts in 27th straight conference win

Mercer point guard Tia Benvenuti has been making the most of her increased role in the second half of the season. Photo by Christian Hartley

Mercer point guard Tia Benvenuti has been making the most of her increased role in the second half of the season. Photo by Christian Hartley

Mercer point guard Tia Benvenuti has been making the most of her increased role in the second half of the season. Photo by Christian Hartley

Mercer point guard Tia Benvenuti has been making the most of her increased role in the second half of the season. Photo by Christian Hartley

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After nearly every win this season, Mercer Head Coach Susie Gardner has mentioned that her team has yet to play a complete game this year.

She’s been right. On many occasions, Mercer has played a great first half only to slip up in the second half and allow teams to get back into games.

Saturday’s game saw Mercer (18-7, 10-0) host Western Carolina, one of those very teams that Mercer had gotten out ahead of and allowed to come back and make it close.

Their matchup on Saturday was a different story. The Bears outscored the Catamounts (4-22, 0-11 SoCon)  in every single quarter and led for the entire game outside of the game’s first 50 seconds when the score was tied at zero.

The Catamounts made a few runs to keep the Bears honest, but when it was all said and done, Mercer had won it 71-55.

Quick Takes

(1) Watch out for freshman point guard Tia Benvenuti

This girl can straight up ball. The stats don’t jump out at you tonight, but her ability to see the court and find open shooters is exceptional. Benvenuti is just a freshman, but she also missed the entire first half of the season. Having former Mercer standout point guard Sydni Means on the sidelines coaching her up is probably the best thing she could ask for. Her progression moving forward is going to be really, really fun to watch.

(2) This team might be deeper than last season

Last season’s Mercer Bears squad centered around senior wing Kahlia Lawrence, with senior point guard Sydni Means running the show. The team’s two leading scorers this year were third and fourth options on last year’s team. Many expected this year’s team to flow through KeKe Calloway, but it’s been the play of Amanda Thompson that has driven their success. Combine that with the improved play of Shannon Titus, and players like Rachel Selph, Linnea Rosendal and Benvenuti stepping up, and you might have an even deeper team than last year. The deeper the team, the better come tournament time.

(3) Rachel Selph must stay consistent

As a 6’3 center playing against opposing players that are almost always shorter than her, many could think Selph would dominate. However, she currently averages just 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Much of that is due to the fact that she plays on a team with several ball-dominant scorers. However, in the past two games, Selph is averaging 15.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and two blocks.

Player of the Game: Amanda Thompson

  • The double-double machine was at it again scoring 18 points to go along with 14 rebounds
  • Both of those stats (points and rebounds) were game-highs for either team
  • If that wasn’t enough, the senior forward also dished out three assists, got a steal and block in the game

Notable Quotables

(1) Gardner on if today was what a complete game looks like:

“No, not today, it wasn’t even close. We have four more games to get to that goal but today was not that. We just did not have the energy that we had last game, so it was not as good as I had hoped.”

(2) Gardner lays out what a complete game might look like:

“I don’t think we have a problem, I just don’t think it was necessarily our best effort. We have five seniors who have been there and it is a long season. In basketball we play many games and it is hard to get up every single game, every single practice with high energy. I have to be a little understanding that we had a hard-fought win on Thursday, very little time to recover, and then play at 2 p.m. Saturday.”

(3) Amanda Thompson on another great team effort in a win:

“I think it’s great just having different people stepping up and scoring. Rachel, I think, double figures the past two games — that’s huge. Linnea obviously last game. Then even Ally (Welch) was 3 for 4 tonight, so that’s big. Just across the board having … just a whole team effort. That’s really important for us. The fact that everyone can contribute really helps our team.

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