Mercer waited awhile to get into gear in its last game.
The result was a nice comeback wasted on a one-point loss
“We decided when we got down 12 to fight back and press and play with a sense of urgency,” Mercer head coach Susie Gardner said. “But my question to them (Tuesday) morning was, ‘What if we had that sense of urgency to start the game?’ The same sense of urgency we had against Georgia, we had it to start that game.”
If Mercer doesn’t get going from the start when it hosts Winthrop in non-conference action Wednesday night it could be in trouble. Throw in that Mercer (3-8) returned from Christmas break having really taken the time off, and Wednesday night will be a challenge.
“That Dec. 26 practice is always one that you circle, everyone in America has it,” Gardner said. “You hope that your players go home and get in a gym, condition, go to the weight room, do crunches and pushups and dips, something to maintain the level of conditioning.
“Four days is a long time it the life of a Division I athlete.”
Only a few Bears did so, which Gardner didn’t understand, especially with a stretch of six games in 12 days, including national runner-up and No. 3 Notre Dame playing at the University Center on Friday.
“I don’t want to say they took a vacation,” she said. “I just don’t think they prepared the way you need to as you prepare for a very difficult part of your schedule.”
And that starts with Winthrop, which is 5-6 and has won three of its past four games.
The Eagles and Bears have two common opponents. Both beat Troy, Winthrop by an 80-66 margin on the road to open the season and Mercer 69-59 in overtime on Dec. 18.
Davidson swept the teams, beating Mercer 75-60 on Nov. 14 and Winthrop 80-65 on Dec. 1. Winthrop lost 74-72 at A-Sun member Stetson, which visits Mercer next week.
The Eagles are outscoring opponents by 5.5 points a game and have a plus-4.2 edge in rebounding.
The key for Mercer will be in the backcourt, which is shorthanded.
Point guard Sharnea Boykin is out indefinitely with a concussion suffered in the Bears’ win over Troy. She missed the 76-75 loss last week to UNC Asheville.
That puts off-guard Precious Bridges, a freshman, at the point. She is second with 10.1 points and third with 1.6 assists. Guard Briana Williams leads Mercer with 14.8 points, while freshman Alicia Williams is third at 9.3 points.
Alicia Williams was named the A-Sun newcomer of the week Tuesday after scoring 21 points against UNC Asheville.
“She does the little things,” Gardner said. “And she goes hard all the time. All the time. Every play. She has put in the time, she has a great attitude. She does a lot of things that people don’t notice that are critical.”
But defense will be the bigger issue for Mercer’s guards.
Dequesha McClanahan leads the Eagles with 18.3 points on 34.3-percent shooting, only 21.7 percent from 3. Diana Choibekova is next at 16.5 points, and she’s shooting a hair better from deep than overall, 31.9 percent to 31.8. Samiya Wright chips in 12.1 points, and is 22-of-43 (51.2 percent) on 3-pointers.
They chase loose balls, too, teaming for 15.2 rebounds a game. McClanahan tops the Eagles with 6.7 assists and 2.3 steals. Katie Fitzgerald, a 6-1 junior from Camden County, shares the team lead with 6.1 rebounds.
“Their guards are super-talented,” Gardner said. “Their starting guards are averaging 46 points of their 68. They can shoot it, they can take you to the rim, stop and pop.
“Yes, I’m very concerned about this one.”