Susie Gardner and the Mercer women’s basketball program certainly aren’t satisfied with a 19-point loss.
But the head coach was pleased with her team’s effort and overall performance against No. 19 Georgia on Thursday at Hawkins Arena.
After losing to the Bulldogs by 31 points last year, Mercer put up a better fight this year, losing 68-49.
Mercer drops to 4-3 with its first home loss (3-1), while Georgia improves to 9-0.
“I feel like we played well, but we can play better,” freshman Kahlia Lawrence said. “There are things we can grow from as a team from this game. Obviously, we were happy with the effort, but we’re not happy we lost. We can go back and look at this game and know there are things we can improve on.
“They’re a great team, and playing that caliber of team can certainly help us.”
Lawrence and senior Precious Bridges led the Bears with 13 points each. Lawrence made 5-of-11 from the floor, while Bridges was just 3-of-13 from the floor. Alicia Williams added eight for the Bears.
Georgia was paced by three players -- Tiaria Griffin, Shacobia Barbee and Mackenzie Engram -- with 12 points each.
“Defensively, we were good,” Georgia head coach Andy Landers said. “We were able to create offense off of defense, but we were also able to execute in the halfcourt, which was good to see because we struggled with that a couple of nights ago. I thought we were good in all phases offensively and defensively. We rebounded the ball well. We ran the floor well. We did a good job with the scouting piece. Everything was solid (Thursday).”
The difference in the game was turnovers. Mercer had 23, while Georgia had 15. That helped Georgia hold a large shot advantage over the Bears, taking 62 shots from the floor to just 45 for Mercer. And the Bulldogs took advantage, hitting a much higher percentage. Georgia made 29 shots from the floor for a 46.8 percentage, while Mercer made only 16 (35.6).
“(Turnovers were) key. I knew they were going to press us,” Gardner said. “We had worked against the press with our guys in practice and didn’t have nearly the trouble that we had (Thursday), and I felt like their press put us behind early, and that was disappointing. But it wasn’t just the press. It was the open-court turnovers and halfcourt turnovers, which you can’t do against a good team like Georgia because it gives them the chance to get a transition layup, and also, there are 23 possessions that we didn’t have a chance.”
The Bulldogs led 42-25 at the half, and most of the damage was done by the turnovers as Mercer had 12 in the first 20 minutes to just three for the Bulldogs. Georgia continued to play well early in the second half and pushed its lead to as many as 26 points at 53-27.
But the Bears fought back, and Georgia outscored Mercer by only two points (26-24) in the second half.
Mercer returns to action Saturday when it travels to Statesboro to face Georgia Southern. Georgia hosts Michigan State on Sunday.
“We did keep fighting and showed we have a little bit of fire about us,” Gardner said. “It’s disappointing in some areas but positive in others. I’m going to put this one to bed and get ready for Georgia Southern.”