The defending-champion Mercer Bears will have yet another opportunity to cut down the nets in this year’s SoCon Championship game after defeating the No. 5 seed Wofford Terriers, 69-51, in the tournament semi-finals.
Friday’s morning matchup saw the Bears get off to yet another slow start on offense. However, their impressive team defense shined through once again.
The Terriers came in as the SoCon’s top scoring team, but the Bears held the Terriers to just 11 first quarter points and 10 in the second. All in all, Wofford shot just 30 percent in the first half due to the stifling Mercer defense.
Mercer ran away with the game in the second half, outscoring the Terriers by 11 points over the final 20 minutes. The Bears offense started clicking, thanks to 19 second-half points from Shannon Titus, all the while their defense continued to lock Wofford down.
When the final buzzer rang, the celebration commenced for the defending champion Bears, who are now heading to the second consecutive Southern Conference Championship.
(1) Another slow start on offense
In each of their first two games of the SoCon tournament, the Bears have struggled mightily on offense. The Bears shot just 35 percent from the floor in the first half, but thankfully the Terriers, the top-scoring team in the conference, had an even tougher time scoring, shooting at a lowly 30 percent. Mercer averages higher scoring numbers than either of the team’s they could face in the SoCon title, but that doesn’t mean the slow starts on offense aren’t reason to be concerned.
(2) Taking care of the basketball
In their opening round game against Western Carolina, the Bears committed an atrocious 18 turnovers. Despite the blowout victory, it was an area that the Bears needed to address before Friday’s game versus Wofford. And they did, cutting down their turnover number in half, down to just 9. It was a huge improvement and likely made the difference in a much closer, hard-fought game.
(3) SoCon Championship preview
One more win stands in the way of Mercer repeating as SoCon Tournament champions. Who the Bears will face in the title game is still to be determined, but we do know that it will be either No. 2 seed Furman or No. 3 seed Chattanooga. The Bears fared well against both squads this season, defeating Furman twice by a combined 19 points and Chattanooga by 13 in two contests, as well. The Bears will be the favorite, but must be prepared for each team’s best shot at an upset. The title game is set for Mar. 10 with a 12 p.m. tip-off.
Player of the Game: Shannon Titus (No. 21)
Titus was a force on defense all game, swatting away a game-high five blocks
The sophomore slasher scored 29 points, the most points by any player on either team and a new-career high for her
She also contributed six rebounds, two assists and a steal in 35 minutes of action
(-) Head Coach Susie Gardner on the play of Shannon Titus:
Shannon’s got a lot of gifts in terms of being an athlete. She’s long, she’s got intelligence — you’ve got to be smart to be a good defender. So that was an amazing job on defense. We were having a little bit of trouble finding the basket in terms of scoring, and the shot clock would go down and Shannon was just hitting key shots at important times. And then again, we would focused on rebounds and she has 6 rebounds. Just an all around stat game for Shannon.”
(-) Amanda Thompson talks about playing in another title game:
It’s super exciting. It’s always fun after this game just knowing that you made it to the championship again. You’ve got the afternoon to kinda, for the players at least, to rest and then practice tomorrow. It’s just an exciting couple of days in preparing for the championship. What more could you want? This is the best time of the year. It’s just so much fun.”
(-) Thompson on how her team will prepare for their title defense:
“We’ve just got to do what we’ve always done. We’ll focus and see who wins this next game. And then the coaches will start preparing a scout, and we’ll rest. Then just be ready to take in what they tell us tomorrow at practice. Just prepare like we have for any other game this year, and just really focus on what the coaches want us to do. And then we’ll execute come Sunday.”