ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- It wasn't the kind of start Mercer women's basketball head coach Susie Gardner wanted to see from her team in the Southern Conference Tournament.
But there was no reason to panic, either.
After UNC Greensboro scored the first 11 points Thursday, Gardner's team responded in a big way. Even with Southern Conference Player of the Year Kahlia Lawrence struggling with her offense, the top-seeded Bears bounced back from their slow start to win 75-53.
After trailing 11-0, Mercer outscored UNC Greensboro 40-14 the rest of the first half and cruised in the second half.
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Mercer improves to 23-7, sweeping the Spartans, who finish their season at 8-22, losing all 15 of their games in conference play.
THREE WHO MATTERED
KeKe Calloway: The freshman from Mary Persons finished with a career-high 22 points, including 16 in the first half. Calloway hit a career-high five 3-pointers, and she hit all five of her free throws.
Sydni Means: The sophomore point guard had a strong all-around game with 10 points, eight assists and six steals.
Lawrence: The sophomore missed her first six shots and didn't score until 7:59 remained in the third quarter. She finished with nine points, hitting just 3-of-13 shots.
With Lawrence scoreless and dealing with foul trouble, Mercer went on a 19-0 run to turn a 23-16 deficit into a 35-23 lead with about two minutes left in the half. The Bears scored 24 of the final 26 points of the half to lead 40-25.
Defense steps up: With the offense struggling early, Mercer turned up the pressure on defense and got back in the game. The Bears held UNC Greensboro to 37.7 percent shooting (20-of-53) and forced 24 turnovers.
More on the defense: The Bears had 16 steals and turned those into 28 points.
Bench leads the way: Behind Calloway, Mercer had a 36-3 advantage in bench points.
Tough stretch for Spartans: UNC Greensboro missed its final 12 shots of the first half, making its final shot of the half with 9:44 left in the second quarter.
THEY SAID IT
Gardner: "The one thought I had before we left the hotel, 'The worst-case scenario would be for Khalia to get into foul trouble in the first half,' which it happened in the first quarter. I thought KeKe obviously came in and hit some huge shots for us. Sydni played great at the point as she has all year."
Gardner on the timeout at 11-0: "Not once this year has there been any panic, and during the timeout, Sydni just said, 'We got this coach.' And I said, 'OK, let's go get it.' "
Calloway: "I just wanted to focus on getting into the game and stepping up and making a difference and helping my team out and get a win."
Means on her defense: "I got my hands on a couple of balls, but I can always be better on defense. I should have taken away the high post a little bit more. I've still got a little bit of work to do on defense, but getting my hands on some balls, I think I have a knack for that."
Lawrence on her offensive struggles: "I'm happy it happened (Thursday) during the win. I wasn't hitting, but my teammates stepped up, the first quarter when I was out, the second quarter, throughout the game."
Mercer faces Furman, 71-68 winner over East Tennessee State, at 11 a.m. on Friday.