Going almost two weeks without a game means two weeks of only practice, and that can lead to a sluggish or bored team.
Mercer head coach Susie Gardner expects to see a smarter team than earlier this month when the Bears host Troy in women’s basketball action Sunday afternoon at the University Center.
“It’s been great; it’s been really, really good,” Gardner said of the break. “We’ve done some individual shooting, individual film work around their exams. The time we’ve been in the gym collectively has been ultra productive.
“You don’t know. You have so many young kids; they’re taking exams for the first time. You don’t know if they’re going to come in bleary-eyed. But we have accomplished so much.”
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Mercer has been taking exams and practicing since losing 80-43 to Georgia on Dec. 6. The Bears fell to 2-7 with the loss, which offered some bright spots nonetheless and a certain amount of momentum heading into the break.
Gardner thinks the line is clearer for her players as to how much effort is expected if they want playing time.
“For the most part, everyone has come to practice ready,” she said. “I think they understand that if you don’t, I can quickly not play you. I think that has made an impression on some people.”
Sophomore Briana Williams leads Mercer with 12.8 points per game, just ahead of freshman Precious Bridges. Junior Alex Phillips tops the Bears with 7.6 rebounds.
Troy is 1-8, starting the season with eight straight losses before breaking through Thursday with a 60-53 win at Alabama State.
The Trojans of 10th-year head coach Michael Murphy went 5-25 last season and lost all-conference selection Donette McNair, who graduated. Troy returns 74.7 percent of its scoring and 78.1 percent of its rebounding.
That hasn’t translated to early season success, with losses to mid-majors as well as Auburn (74-47). Every loss except one, to NAIA member Belhaven, has been by at least 10 points.
Troy, an A-Sun member from 1998-2005, has three players from Australia and one from England, as well as a transfer from Navy and three players from Georgia.
“They’ve got some international players that play a face-up kind of game,” Gardner said. “They play with more of a four-guard look; it’s not necessarily all guards. That poses a unique challenge.”
But Mercer is a little more focused on Mercer and getting better.
“I really feel like we’ve grown as a team these past 11 days,” Gardner said. “I’m anxious to see if my excitement is warranted.”