Another one. Actually another two.
Mercer Women’s Basketball (22-2, 9-0) added two more to their win streak of now 19 games and remained unbeaten in Southern Conference competition. The Bears defeated both Furman University (13-11, 3-6) and Wofford College (10-14, 3-6) last week extending their already tight hold on the conference lead.
The Bears had the benefit of a home stand and needed all the help of a home crowd against Furman. Mercer put their then win streak of 16 games, comprised of double-digit wins on the line, but edged out a 65-53 win on Feb. 1. Mercer did control the game from the tip off, outscoring the Paladins 18-8 in the first quarter.
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A pleasant surprise was 8 of the first 12 points were scored by Rachel Selph and Amanda Thompson, who are becoming more and more comfortable shooting the ball as the season continues. Furman was able to cut the lead down to five points in the second quarter before the Bears shut them down in the last 5:00+ minutes with an 11-0 run. Mercer forced 12 total turnovers at half’s end.
The Paladins would make the game more interesting by outscoring Mercer 16-9 in the third quarter, but ultimately the Bears never let the lead get below seven points and were led by Kahlia Lawrence’s 21 points on 6-of-17 shooting.
Keke Calloway added 12 points and Thompson and Selph chipped in six a piece. Thompson finished with an impressive 6 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals. Sydni Means did her usual flirtatious dance with a triple-double ending with 8 points, 7 assists, and 7 steals. (We’re going to see a triple-double from her before it’s over).
“Furman is a good team and we knew that it was going to be a battle. Furman's post play was great and they hurt us inside, getting Rachel (Selph) into foul trouble,” said Head Coach Susie Gardner. “However, I thought that Amanda (Thompson) did a great job playing in the post. It was a total team effort on defense and we were able to hit our free throws down the stretch."
Thompson ended the game with four steals, but played well on the 6’3” Celena Taborn despite the freshman’s 16 points. She did her best to alter shots and tipped away several passes leading to steals by other players.
“Last time we played them, (Taborn) scored on me pretty easily so I watched film with coach a couple days ago and we talked about taking away, I had to play her topside more alot and let them lob in … Obviously, Alex helping made a huge difference,” Thompson said.
The Wofford contest proved to be a lot less dramatic. The Bears #TrouncedtheTerriers by 41 points in a 80-39 victory. Nearly every Bear that saw playing time scored and were led by 18, 15, 14 from Calloway, Lawrence and Thompson respectively. Curiously, the Bears only shot 33 percent from the floor in the first quarter, but took a 21-point explosion in the second quarter and ran with it. They picked play up defensively too, holding Wofford scoreless for over 8:00 minutes in the second quarter and ending the half up 40-19. Coach Gardner at halftime:
“You have to understand that Wofford’s good. We’re not going to always dominate from the get-go. You’ve got to get into the flow of the game. You’ve got to figure out what they’re doing, what we can do, and then they’re a good basketball team.”
The Bears were able to coast in the second half after a combined 14 points from Thompson and Calloway in the third quarter allowed the bench control the rest of the game. Calloway also collected the 200th three-pointer of her career.
[video credit="At this point, this is what everyone in the conference looks like waiting for Mercer to lose." align="left"]via GIPHY[/video]
Kahlia Lawrence’s 15 points were enough to put her over 2100 career points, and she did it in front of impressive company. Mercer women’s basketball alumni were present on Saturday including the second all-time leading scorer in Mercer women’s history, Vivian Humphrey-Terry. Humphrey-Terry had plenty of praise for the player right behind her in the record books.
“Records are made to be broken,” Humphrey-Terry said. “Her intensity, she plays hard every night and I think that’s what makes her a great player.”
Humphrey-Terry’s #14 jersey is retired at Mercer and she hinted that she could see a number of players from this squad join her in the rafters.
“I think so, I don’t want to call it, but I think so,” she said grinning.
Player of the Month
KeKe Calloway was named SoCon Player of the Month (POTM) for her performance in January. She is the third consecutive Mercer player to be named POTM. The junior averaged 21.4 points including back-to-back career nights of 34 points and 40 points on Jan. 4 and Jan. 6. The 40-point outing included breaking the program and SoCon records for three-pointers in a game after she put up 12. Calloway is now in the 1,000 point club and tied for 19th on Mercer’s all-time scoring list. Calloway is still rewriting Mercer’s record books with 80 three-pointers this season.
Pay (National) Attention
The Bears have proven they’re one of the top mid-major programs in the country, garnering national attention and votes in the AP Top 25 rankings. They already own the number six spot on the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 and could move higher after their last two wins and losses by number 1, Florida Gulf Coast University on Feb. 1 and by number 4, Princeton University, on Feb. 2.
Mercer will finish their three-game home stand against Samford on Saturday, Feb. 10 before going on the road to Western Carolina on Feb. 15.