Mercer’s showdown with Chattanooga on Saturday in Southern Conference play turned into a one-team show.
The Mocs and Bears split their regular-season meetings last year and finished up as the co-regular-season conference champions before the Mocs won the conference tournament, beating the Bears in the final. But Saturday’s game was all Chattanooga after the first quarter as the Mocs rolled to a 74-56 win.
Chattanooga used a couple of big runs to improve to 8-8 overall and 1-1 in conference play. Mercer falls to 12-4 and 1-1.
Four who mattered
Kahlia Lawrence: The Mercer junior finished with 24 points, hitting 9-of-20 from the floor, including 4-of-9 on 3-pointers.
KeKe Calloway: The Mercer sophomore came off the bench to score 18 points, hitting 6-of-16 shots, including 4-of-11 3-point tries.
Jasmine Joyner: The Chattanooga senior hit 10-of-13 shots to finish with 24 points, and she added 12 rebounds.
Lakelyn Bouldin: The Chattanooga freshman hit 7-of-10 shots and finished with 17 points.
After leading 15-10 at the end of the first quarter, Chattanooga used a 13-0 run in the second quarter to take control and lead 35-23 at the half. Mercer went more than seven minutes in the quarter without a score.
Another big run for Mocs: Leading by 12 at the half, Chattanooga started the third quarter with an 18-5 spurt to strengthen its lead.
Strong zone: Chattanooga’s 2-3 zone defense controlled Mercer’s offense throughout the game. The Mocs had a 12-0 advantage in points in the paint in the first half and finished with a 40-10 advantage.
More help needed: Mercer only had three players score in the first half: Lawrence, Calloway and Sydni Means. Those three combined for 48 of the Bears’ points with Alex Williams and Amanda Thompson each finishing with four.
Showing some fight: Mercer used a 9-0 run to end the third quarter to pull within 53-39 but couldn’t get any closer.
Strong play throughout: Chattanooga shot the ball well, hitting 60.8 percent of its shots (31-of-51) and turned the ball over only eight times.
They said it
Mercer head coach Susie Gardner on the Chattanooga zone: “What they did, they didn’t pack it in. They spread it out, and they did not give our shooters an opportunity to get open. But when you have Joyner in the middle, and even if we drove or got the ball into a soft spot with our post, Joyner was standing right there as a shot-blocker. So they spread it out, which is why we were not able to get as many shots.”
Gardner on moving past the loss: “I was not expecting this score, this margin. But we’re a mature group. This might have devastated us last year at this time, but we can move forward, and we’ve got a whole lot more games to go, so no one’s panicking in our locker room.”
Lawrence on the matchup: “Playing against them at any point during the season, it’s always a big game. But playing against anybody in our conference is a big game. We want to win. We want to come out with the W at the end of the day. It’s Chattanooga, the team that won the championship, but that’s last year. This is a new year.”
Mercer continues Southern Conference play Thursday at UNC Greensboro.