The Bears may have been playing an unfamiliar foe, but they looked perfectly comfortable doing so.
Mercer held George Washington scoreless for more than seven and a half minutes to open the game, using an early 16-0 lead to run past the Colonials 61-44 on Wednesday.
George Washington missed its first 12 shots, stifled by a Mercer defense holding opponents to 38 percent shooting on the season. The Bears, meanwhile, had no trouble scoring in the opening quarter — they tallied 22 points after Kayla Potts nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
But Mercer would only extend its 22-5 first-quarter lead by one point going into halftime. The Bears did not score in the first four minutes of the second quarter. Mercer would recover, scoring 13 points during the quarter as George Washington scored 12 on 4-of-13 shooting.
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And then the Colonials went cold again. George Washington went scoreless for more than eight minutes to open the second half, ultimately scoring five points on 1-of-15 shooting in the third to trail 50-22.
The tides turned in the fourth, as George Washington outscored Mercer 22-11 on 8-of-14 shooting, but it was too late for the Colonials.
Three who mattered
Sydni Means: The guarded flirted with a triple-double in the contest, dishing out 11 assists, grabbing 10 rebounds and scoring seven points.
KeKe Calloway: The junior scored a team-high 15 points behind 3-of-8 shooting from behind the arc.
Amanda Thompson: The forward has been on a tear lately and continued Wednesday, scoring a season-high 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds. Thompson won Southern Conference Athlete of the Week last week, scoring 8.0 points and grabbing 9.5 rebounds in two games.
Trouble scoring: George Washington shot 26 percent — 15-of-57 — from the field, including 7-of-43 through the first three quarters. Mercer’s previous low defensively was 45 points against Georgia Southern.
Taking care of the ball: Mercer committed only six turnovers through the first three quarter; it was sloppier in the fourth and finished with 12 total, which was still three off from its season low of nine against Campbell.
Scoring without Kahlia Lawrence: The standout senior scored a season-low five points, but that didn’t hold back Mercer’s offense. The Bears still nearly reached their season average and shot 40 percent from the field.
Streaking: After back-to-back losses to Georgia and Western Kentucky, the Bears have won four straight games by more than 12 points per game.
Three from 300: With the victory, Mercer head coach Susie Gardner earned her 297th career win. She now has 121 wins at Mercer, second all time behind Peggy Collins. Gardner trails Collins by 12 victories.
1-0: Wednesday was the first ever meeting between Mercer and George Washington.
They said it
Means on her near triple-double: “When I have teammates who run the floor, it’s really easy to get those assists. I focused more on rebounding just because I knew my shot wasn’t falling these past couple games, so I knew I had to do other things to help my team out.”
Thompson on a career-high 14 points: “I think defenses are focusing on other players … They’re leaving me open, and (Means) and other players are doing a great job of getting me the ball.”
Means on four straight wins: “I love the chemistry on our team. A lot of different people are scoring now.”
Gardner on the team’s defense: “I was really pleased with our effort, because they were a really hard team to defend with all the movement and the motion … We had Coach (Kolakowski) from our football team, defensive coordinator, come talk to the team prior to our games. And you know how defensive coordinators are. I’m not going to give him all the credit, but it was fun for our players to hear from a (defensive-minded) guy.”
Means on making up for Lawrence not scoring: “As we go on, we expect her to be defended toughly every single game, so we know as a team other people are going to have to score. She’s still our go-to, but we know we can’t rely on her every single game. It’s not fair to her.”
Gardner on scoring without Kahlia: “We’ve really tried to focus and practice lately getting other people shots … We have to quit relying on her so much. I trust (Lawrence) with every shot, every game. But it’s also refreshing to see (Means) hitting some shots and (Calloway) is going to hit her 3s.”
The Bears travel to UNC Asheville on Sunday to face the Bulldogs at 1 p.m.