Mercer women’s basketball has never been better. The Bears won a program-record 25th straight game Thursday in a 75-44 victory over Western Carolina in the first round of the Southern Conference tournament.
The previous mark of 24 straight was set in 1973 when the Bears competed at the AIAW Division I level. Mercer also won its 28th game of the season, one shy of the program single-season record of 29 wins set in 1979-80.
The Catamounts entered the game with one win in conference play on the season. Mercer spent no time pulling away from Western Carolina. Behind SoCon Player of the Year Kahlia Lawrence’s eight points, the Bears held a 20-11 lead after the first quarter.
Despite shooting only 35 percent in the second quarter, Mercer utilized a 10-1 turnover advantage in the first half to hold onto a 33-18 lead at the break.
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The Bears put away the Catamounts for good with a 22-11 advantage in the third quarter behind Lawrence again.
Three who mattered
Kahlia Lawrence: After winning her third-straight SoCon Player of the Year award days ago — the first woman to ever do that in SoCon history — Lawrence shot an efficient 11-of-17 from the floor for 23 points.
KeKe Calloway: The junior continues to hurt opponents from the arc. She knocked down three 3s en route to 18 points.
Amanda Thompson: Thompson chipped in 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting and added a team-high seven rebounds.
Turnovers on the menu: Western Carolina had 24 total turnovers; Mercer had only two, a season low. The Bears scored 28 points off the Catamounts’ turnovers.
Terrific triumvirate: Mercer’s three leading scorers — Lawrence, Calloway and Thompson — combined for 53 of the team’s 75 points. No other player scored more than four points.
Means climbs up the record books: Mercer’s senior point guard Sydni Means needed just three assists to move into second all-time for career assists in the SoCon with 665. East Tennessee’s Kim Skala owns the current record of 842.
Never in doubt: Western Carolina never led in the outing. Calloway scored the first points of the game 32 seconds into the contest, and the Bears never relinquished the lead after that.
Orange in Asheville: An Education Day program brought hundreds of students from the Asheville area to the arena. Mercer gave those students orange pom-poms to show support for the Bears.
They said it
Head coach Susie Gardner on zone defense forcing turnovers: “Some of those were forced maybe by us, and then some of them were just errant passes. The turnovers we like are the ones that are forced with the clock still running, so we can get out and run. ... They have 24 turnovers, and we have two; that’s pretty remarkable.”
Means on whether they think about winning 25 straight: “We’re 1-0 right now.”
Gardner on whether she had to motivate the team for this game: “It was a seven-point game last time. I didn’t have to tell them that. I think they recall that game. We knew (Western Carolina) was capable of playing with us.”
Means on moving up on the career assist list: “That’s new to me, so that’s pretty cool. I couldn’t do anything without my teammates. KeKe Calloway and Kahlia Lawrence shoot the ball really well, so when I have players like that on my team, it’s kind of easy for me to get those assists.”
The Bears will play the winner of Furman and Samford in the semifinals at 11 a.m. Friday.