The Mercer Bears’ bid to make a statement came up short down the stretch, and No. 18 Chattanooga was able to hold on for a 56-51 Southern Conference women’s basketball victory on Monday night at Hawkins Arena.
Chattanooga entered the game 12-0 in conference league play and had won 20 straight games overall.
“How often does Mercer get to play a top-20 program?” Mercer head coach Susie Gardner said. “So it’s not a moral victory, it’s an opportunity that slipped through our hands.
“This hurts because we had a chance to do something that doesn’t happen at Mercer all of the time.”
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Mercer had Chattanooga on the ropes early.
The Bears started the game shooting 7-of-11 from the floor and leading 14-4 at the second media timeout.
“We have the ability (to start fast), and we did the same thing versus Furman,” Gardner said. “When our shots are falling, we come out as a confident team and our shots just happened to be falling.”
Chattanooga eventually found its shooting range, as well, but the Bears maintained a two-point lead at halftime. The Mocs’ biggest lead in the second half was six points.
The Mocs took their first lead of the game on a bucket by Keiana Gilbert with just less than 16 minutes to play. They never trailed again.
Mercer tied the contest on a Teanna Robinson putback bucket with 2:25 to play, but couldn’t close down the stretch as Chattanooga knocked down 3-of-4 free throws inside the final minute to seal the win.
“The difference in the second half was they shot 57 percent and we shot 35,” Gardner said. “In the first half, we defended them pretty well, but in the second half, they had their way with us on offense. They hit shots and we didn’t.”
Precious Bridges led all scorers with 19 points for the Bears. Jasmine Joyner paged the Mocs with 18.
Chattanooga outscored Mercer 30-12 in the paint.