It wasn’t pretty, and it definitely wasn’t easy, but Mercer women’s basketball found a way to keep their winning streak alive.
Conference road games are always tough to win, but when you shoot just 39-percent from the floor, get out-rebounded and you only make one 3-pointer — on paper, it can look almost impossible.
However, Mercer overcame those struggles due to stifling defense and ball security. The Bears held the Mocs to just 35-percent shooting and turned the ball over just six times in the game.
The game was close the entire way, as the stat sheet would indicate. But it was Mercer who found their spark at the right time, outsourcing the Mocs in both the third and fourth quarters.
The result was a gritty, ugly 62-56 road win for Mercer. All in all, it’s a win and I think they’ll take it.
(1) Gritty, road wins can do wonders
Wins like this aren’t pretty. Fans don’t go crazy over them. The highlights don’t end up going viral on social media. Blah, blah, blah. What matters is that one team won the game and one team lost. Luckily, that team was Mercer on Saturday. The Bears have won games in every type of way this season. Blowouts, comebacks, shootouts, buzzer-beats and now they’ve notched a win where they relied almost solely on their defense. Come tournament time and beyond, being able to find ways to win matters. And sometimes, it’s all that matters in the end.
(2) Bigs are playing bigger (and better)
After last game, I highlighted the play of Rachel Selph, who has been tearing it up on the court the last few games. However, tonight she was joined by fellow big and freshman LaKaitlin Wright. The 6’3 center didn’t do much on the offensive side, but she pulled down 10 rebounds, swatted away three blocks and got a steal in 18 minutes of action. Every single one of those stats are career-highs for Wright. Her ability to spell Selph when she gets tired is critical for a Mercer time who is generally undersized when Selph isn’t on the floor. If the Bears can win the SoCon, Wright’s size will be crucial if the Bears draw a bigger team in the NCAA Tournament.
(3) Future is bright
Mercer loses four starters to graduation this year, including team leaders Amanda Thompson and KeKe Calloway. After losing Kahlia Lawrence and Sydni Means last season, most teams would fall off significantly in the years after. However, Mercer’s future appears pretty bright. Shannon Titus will step into a lead scoring role, with Tia Benvenuti running the floor and LaKaitlin Wright manning the middle. The team won’t look the same, but the talent will still be there. Add in Arizona transfer forward Kiana Barkhoff, and the Bears will be set moving forward.
Player of the Game: LaKaitlin Wright (No. 22)
Wright came in a dominated the paint, pulling down a career-high 10 rebounds, including two on the offensive glass
Her three blocks were also a career-high and set the tone for the defense all night long
Wright played a career-high 18 minutes and made the most, notching a four different statistical categories
(1) Coach Susie Gardner on finding different ways to win games:
“The ways we’ve won are a credit to being a true team; we don’t rely on one single player every night and it’s great to see different players step up when needed.”
(2) Gardner on winning another close game:
“We’re battle tested. We always have someone new stepping up to make plays down the stretch. It’s taxing on our coaching staff, but we all have the confidence in our players to make the plays needed to win the game.”
(3) Gardner talks about SoCon winning streak:
“To have won 32 straight SoCon games is great, but we’re very proud of winning these past two titles outright.”