Mercer women remain undefeated behind dominant first quarter

Mercer women beat Georgia Southern, 72-45

Mercer University women beat Georgia Southern, 72-45, at Hawkins Arena in home opener Thursday, November 16.
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Mercer University women beat Georgia Southern, 72-45, at Hawkins Arena in home opener Thursday, November 16.

If there were any doubts whether Mercer would remain undefeated after Thursday’s bout with Georgia Southern, KeKe Calloway swiftly erased them.

Calloway scored 10 points in the first two minutes to fuel Mercer’s 16-0 game-opening run — a scoring spurt Georgia Southern would never recover from in its 72-45 loss to the Bears.

Mercer (3-0, 0-0) gained the 16-point advantage less than four minutes into the outing and ultimately won the first quarter 27-10. But the Eagles did not lie down.

The Bears shot a meager 2-of-12 from the field in the second quarter, including a nearly eight-minute scoreless span at the end of the period. Georgia Southern outscored Mercer 11-5 to trail 32-21 at the half.

But the Eagles would not creep any closer. Mercer opened the second half on an 11-0 run and outscored Georgia Southern 27-7. The Eagles attempted only six shots in the quarter and lost 11 turnovers.

Georgia Southern’s offense was much better in the fourth quarter — 17 points on 5-of-12 shooting — but it was too little too late.

Three who mattered

Calloway: The junior was red hot at the start and finished with a team-high 17 points. She now has connected on 11 3-pointers this season.

Sydni Means: Mercer’s senior point guard continued her great early season play, chipping in 12 points, five assists and four steals. Means won Southern Conference Player of the Week after averaging 14.5 points and 9.5 assists in the first two games.

Linnea Rosendal: Rosendal stretched the floor with her 3-ball, scoring 15 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the arc.


Back on the boards: Mercer won the rebounding contest by one rebound, 38 to 37. It’s the first time the Bears have out-rebounded their opponent. Against Central Florida, Mercer was out-rebounded 40-23; against Florida Atlantic, they lost the battle 42-38.

Pickpocketing for points: The Bears forced 24 turnovers and scored 27 points off them. The trap defense was specifically strong in the third quarter; the Bears turned 11 turnovers into 18 points.

Shooting percentage disparity: Mercer struggled in the second quarter but was solid otherwise, finishing the game shooting less than 44 percent from the field. Georgia Southern shot less than 29 percent from the field in the outing.

Worth mentioning

Clipping the Eagles: Mercer has gotten the best of its in-state foe Georgia Southern, leading the series 36-30 with the win Thursday. During head coach Susie Gardner’s tenure, the Bears are 5-3 against the Eagles. The 27-point victory is the largest during that span.

Embracing home: Gardner is now 7-1 in home openers and has won seven straight. Her lone loss was a 67-57 loss to Georgia College in 2010.

Banner time: The program unveiled two new banners before the game to commemorate its regular-season conference championship and WNIT appearance last season. Seven banners now hang in Hawkins Arena for the women.

They said it

Gardner on the great start: “We came out here hitting shots, playing with a lot of intensity and emotion. I thought, ‘This is going to be a great game overall for us.’ One of our goals was to play four quarters … We didn’t play well at all in the second quarter, which was very disappointing.”

Calloway on her scoring barrage: “It’s very nice to see the ball go in, because I feel like once it goes in one time, I feel like it’ll go in the next. For the team, it helps us get off to a great start and kind of jump on them.”

Means on the strong third quarter: “That defense we run in the third quarter, it kind of gives us momentum. We get hyped. (There are) a lot of easy buckets when we’re getting steals and running.”

Gardner on turning turnovers into points: “We were having trouble scoring in our half-court sets for whatever reason. I decided to put our half-court trap in there, which we’re pretty confident in.”

Gardner on the issue scoring in the second quarter: “When we get leads, we — for whatever reason — don’t try to increase the lead. We kind of get comfortable. We don’t play with the same emotion and intensity that we need to have. We need to be better at that.”

What’s next?

The Bears host in-state foe Georgia at 2 p.m. Sunday. Mercer lost 72-64 to the Bulldogs last season.