Precious Bridges came up with a play of energy and inspiration, a defensive stop at the end of the first half.
It was a defensive stop that gave Mercer a huge shot of energy at halftime.
Winthrop, however, didn’t flinch.
The Eagles shrugged off the momentum play and a five-point halftime deficit for an 88-74 win Wednesday night over Mercer in non-conference women’s basketball at the University Center.
Mercer fell to 3-9 with its second straight loss while Winthrop improved to 6-6. Mercer has a day to recover from the loss and get ready for Friday night’s visit by No. 3 Notre Dame.
“We needed that win,” junior Ry’van Buchanan said. “We needed that win coming in facing the No. 3 team. We didn’t compete. We’re going to keep having sad faces when we don’t.”
Buchanan paced Mercer with 27 points while Briana Williams added 23 on 5-of-13 3-point shooting -- and Alicia Williams added 11.
But Mercer’s defense couldn’t keep an eye on Dequesha McClanahan, who drove past the Bears all night en route to 32 points on 11-of-16 shooting.
“We knew exactly what they were going to do,” Mercer head coach Susie Gardner said. “Were we going to be able to stop them?”
Diana Choibekova added 18 -- with 4-of-7 3-point shooting -- and Samiya Wright scored 16 points.
Mercer, which was down by 10 barely seven minutes into the game, took a five-point lead with 22 seconds left in the first half on Alicia Williams’ runner in the lane. Then Bridges picked up Wright bringing the ball downcourt.
Wright stopped on the left wing, and Bridges was all over her, not allowing a pass or shot.
An official raised his hand for a five-second call as the buzzer went off, giving Mercer a huge lift going into the locker room.
“It was good momentum coming into halftime,” Buchanan said. “We had dug out of a whole. We were all of one accord that we had fought back. If we could just maintain it and play for 40 minutes and compete ...”
Bridges’ stop gave Mercer a boost, until McClanahan got rolling.
“What we put on the board is that she’s averaging 18 points a game, she prefers to go right, and she looks to take it every time to the hole,” Gardner said. “That’s the scout on her.”
And it was extremely accurate.
The Bears, who were able to retain the lead in the first half despite Briana Williams sitting out the final 4:31 with two fouls, held the Eagles off for the first few minutes of the second half.
Winthrop regained its edge, and soon the lead, with a 9-2 run for a 49-46 advantage. McClanahan scored 15 points in the first seven minutes of the second half.
“In the locker room and right before in the huddle, I said, ‘Guys, (No.) 22 has played nine minutes, she’s sitting over there, she’s going to try and take over the second half,’ ” Gardner said. “We told them before the game this game was going to come down to who can defend their guards one on one.”
The lead top 10 for good with 5:14 left.
Gardner’s postgame meeting with her team was long and intense.
“When things are going well for this team, we’re great,” she said. “When a little bit of adversity hits, we’ve got people that fold the tent. Unfortunately, it’s some of our main people.”