Mercer women’s basketball opened up Southern Conference play on Saturday afternoon, welcoming rival Samford to Hawkins Arena.
The Bears opened the game extremely slow, shooting just 21 percent from the floor in the opening period, likely not the start head coach Susie Gardner was looking for from a team that is currently riding a two-game losing streak.
Luckily for Mercer, the Bulldogs opened equally as cold from the floor. Despite their poor shooting performance, the Bears entered the halftime locker room ahead 27-22 thanks in part to 18 points from senior Amanda Thompson.
The second half saw neither team able to take advantage of the other’s poor shooting, and it led to a painstakingly close final few minutes. The final possession of regulation saw Samford get their own rebound after a missed shot, heave up a 3-pointer and drill it at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
However, the overtime period was a different story. Mercer came out hot, stayed hot and ultimately finished hot. The Bears outscored Samford 12-4 in the extra minutes en route in a 76-68 victory.
(1) Thompson is doing it all for Mercer
Saturday’s game marked the seventh consecutive double-double for the senior forward. She has assumed a larger scoring role of late, as guard Keke Calloway continues to struggle shooting the ball. Mercer needs December’s SoCon Player of the Month to continue to dominate the game in all phases as the enter SoCon play.
(2) Huge second half for Titus
After a quiet couple of games, sophomore guard Shannon Titus scored 17 points, tying her career high in points. All 17 of those points came after the first half, as the guard went 0-of-6 from the floor in the game’s opening 20 minutes of action. Her impressive play took some of the pressure off Thompson, who outscored her entire team 2-to-1 in the first half.
(3) SoCon is going to be competitive
Last year, Mercer coasted to a 14-0 record in SoCon play, winning 10 of them by at least double-digits. This year is likely not to be as easy, in part due to a much-improved conference. Mercer will need to bring their A-game each and every night out, or risk falling prey to a grueling conference slate.
Player of the Game: Amanda Thompson, No. 2
The senior forward set a new career-high in points with 24
Thompson secured her seventh consecutive double-double by pulling down 11 rebounds on the night
Thompson scored 18 of Mercer’s 27 first-half points, guiding the Bears through a rough first half shooting performance
(1) Thompson on winning first conference game…
“It’s always great to get a win in the first game of conference. That’s huge for us. We know every game is going to be tough in conference, so it was big for us to get this win.”
(2) Titus talks about her second-half performance…
“It felt great. You know, I didn’t do well in the first half, but my teammates really believed in me. They told me to keep shooting, and Coach also encouraged me to be more aggressive and to keep shooting.”
(3) Head coach Susie Gardner on the play of Amanda Thompson…
“Amanda does so much that the average fan does not notice, but someone who has a really high basketball IQ would. We need a few more people being a little bit more consistent than just Amanda night in and night out.”