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Shoot Your Shot: Bears split two in Atlanta

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Mercer Women's Basketball vs. Georgia (Nov. 19, 2017).

Mercer Women's Basketball vs. Georgia (Nov. 19, 2017).

Photo provided by Mercer Athletics.

Photo provided by Mercer Athletics.

Mercer Women's Basketball vs. Georgia (Nov. 19, 2017).

Avery Braxton, Staff Writer

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The Bears (3-2) can be thankful for at least one win on Georgia State’s campus after dropping one contest against Western Kentucky and then battering the Rams of VCU in the Georgia State University Thanksgiving Classic.

Friday’s contest saw the Bears possibly affected by that notorious post-Thanksgiving itis, as Western Kentucky shot out to a 13-0 lead before Mercer even netted their first bucket with less than two minutes remaining in the quarter. The Bears did not see their first lead of the game until just 3:29 left in the fourth quarter, when a Sydni Means floater put Mercer up 58-57.

Western Kentucky would outscore Mercer 10-2 in the final three minutes to claim a 67-62 victory in Atlanta. Foul trouble was Mercer’s Achilles Heel, as the Hilltoppers shot a whopping 29-35 from the free throw line, including their last 10 points of the game. Both Kahlia Lawrence and Alex Williams fouled out and three other Bears ended the game with three fouls a piece. On the flip side, Mercer shot just four free throws all game.

Coach Susie Gardner on the loss:

I was proud of the way we fought back from a poor start to the game in the first quarter. We kept our heads up, kept fighting and we continued to play hard and that showed when we took the lead late in the game. Western Kentucky is one of the top programs in the country. Bottom line is you are not going to beat anyone that shoots 29-of-35 in free throws and you are just 4-of-4.”

Keke Calloway was her usual self from beyond the arc, shooting 7-15 from three-point line for a total  23 points. Means finished with 11 points, 7 assists and 5 steals. Amanda Thompson did not score but did finish with a season-high 11 rebounds and 2 steals.

Mercer bounced back on Sunday with a 70-54 win over the Virginia Commonwealth Rams. The Bears played lockdown defense holding VCU to just 32 percent from the floor and outrebounded their opponent for the first time this season, 36-34.

We saw life from Rachel Selph after a very tough Friday game. Selph put up a season-high 14 points and was efficient shooting 5-7. She also racked up her 68th block to put her 6th all-time on Mercer’s list.

Keke Calloway’s 10-point performance netted her a spot on the GSU Thanksgiving Classic All-Tournament Team.

 

Takeaways

1: It’s all part of the plan

Bears fans need not be dismayed at the Western Kentucky loss. WKU went on to win the tournament and is definitely one of the better teams Mercer will play all season. The now 3-3 Hilltoppers had losses to Power-5 teams Iowa (at Iowa), Notre Dame, and Indiana (at Indiana) prior to their contest with the Bears.

The Hilltoppers nabbed a spot in the NCAA tournament last season and are a good taste of what the Bears could face should they survive the Southern Conference themselves. It’s all part of Coach Gardner’s plan for a tougher nonconference  schedule in preparation for conference play. That being said, it’s hard to win when you allow 35 free throws and two opposing players to score 20+ points.

The Bears face another round of tough opponents in the next couple weeks. They take on Campbell this Thursday, who beat SoCon opponent UNCG and played in the WBI last season. Next Wednesday, they will host a George Washington team that was in the WNIT followed by a trip to UNC-Asheville to face a Bulldog team that, while struggling so far, snuck into the NCAA tournament last season.

2: Consistency is key

We’ve seen the Bears play well through five games, but we have not seen them play a complete game quite yet. The Bears have a tendency to go on long scoring droughts which is bound to happen with a jump shot  shooting team. The first game of the season saw a Mercer defense not allow more than 15 points in a quarter to a 27 point explosion in the fourth by UCF. The Bears were able to outlast the Knights and win by nine.

The Florida Atlantic game had the Bears overcoming a slower first half with a strong second though they controlled the whole game; Georgia Southern handed Mercer a five-point second quarter, but the Bears exploded in the first and third quarters to cruise to a victory; Western Kentucky held Mercer to just four points in the first quarter, yet kept pace with the Hilltoppers the rest of the game.

When the Bears get to a point where they are putting together complete games, they will be very hard to stop.

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Shoot Your Shot: Bears split two in Atlanta