In their first meeting with Western Carolina, the Mercer women had to overcome a scoreless first quarter to rally for a two-point win.
There was no such drama Thursday night at Hawkins Arena.
Mercer scored the first eight points and 14 of the first 16 and cruised to an 84-53 win for its second straight victory. The Bears also scored the final eight points of the first half to coast into halftime with a 46-15 lead.
Mercer was dominant in the first half, shooting 63.3 percent from the floor (19-of-30) with 14 assists (seven from point guard Sydni Means) and just one turnover. The strong play was evident on defense, as well, as Western Carolina was forced into 15 first-half turnovers and shot just 6-of-20 in the first two quarters. In that first half, Mercer had a 22-8 lead in points in the paint, a 22-0 lead in points off turnovers and 7-0 lead in fastbreak points.
Mercer improves to 19-5 overall and 8-2 in the Southern Conference, while Western Carolina drops to 7-18 and 2-8.
Three who mattered
Kahlia Lawrence: The junior guard surpassed 1,500 points for her career with 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the floor and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line.
Means: The junior point guard had her typical balanced game with 12 points, nine assists and four steals
Rachel Selph: The sophomore center continues to get stronger as the season goes along after missing the first part of the season with a foot injury. She had 10 points, hitting 4-of-7 from the floor.
On point: Mercer shot 53.8 percent for the game (35-of-65) and made 10 of its 12 free-throw attempts.
Suffocating defense: Mercer forced 23 turnovers, including 14 steals, and held Western Carolina to 37.8 percent shooting (17-of-45).
Controlling the paint: Mercer outscored Western Carolina 36-20 in the lane.
Making them count: The Bears turned the Catamounts’ turnovers into 33 points.
Taking care of the ball: Mercer is second nationally in turnovers and had only nine.
That’s a first: Mercer had five players score in double figures for the first time this season with KeKe Calloway adding 12 and Linnea Rosendal 10. Mercer is 14-0 when three or more players score in double figures.
Owning the series: Mercer is 11-0 all time against Western Carolina.
They said it
Lawrence on surpassing 1,500 points: “It’s pretty cool. It’s a really cool accomplishment and something that I’ll have forever. I got them because my teammates have passed me the ball.”
Mercer head coach Susie Gardner on the strong start: “We’ve been playing pretty well lately, actually. We’ve had good starts to games. Our defense has really picked up, I think. We’re getting some transition buckets, hitting shots — a better percentage, which is always helpful. I think a lot of times when you hit shots for whatever reason, your defense kind of carries over from your offense. I’m really pleased with the way we started the game.”
Gardner on the first-half defense: “We’ve been working on defense a lot. We’ve been playing more man-to-man lately, and it has kind of been good to us in some instances. I think Western Carolina scored 15 points in the first half, so that was a really, really good defensive effort.”
Mercer hosts UNC Greensboro at 2 p.m. on Saturday.