Mercer Women’s Basketball (25-2, 12-0) has done it again, using their last three victories to secure their third consecutive Southern Conference regular season title. In the last week, they have defeated Samford University, Western Carolina University and University of North Carolina-Greensboro to extend their consecutive win streak to 22 games.
At the very least the Bears will have a share of the title like they did last year. The only team that can catch them is East Tennessee State University and Mercer will wrap up their regular season against the Buccaneers Feb. 24. As long as Head Coach Susie Gardner and company win at least one of their next two ball games, a regular season championship comes to Mercer. Gardner said her squad hadn’t even realized they were in that position.
“I told the team in the locker room that they had just shared the SoCon regular season title, and they weren't even aware of it,” Gardner said. “That shows you how focused this team is on the present game and the next opponent. It is really difficult to win a regular season championship. I am proud of this group from being picked preseason number five as freshmen, to now having three SoCon Regular Season titles.”
It would be remiss if I didn’t mention that according to the Athletics department, Mercer’s win streak is the longest in the program’s history since joining the Division I era. The last time the Bears lost was Nov. 24 versus Western Kentucky, and while one consecutive win streak has extended, another one ended.
The Bears’ games have become a lot more competitive in recent weeks, and the streak of consecutive wins by double-digits ended at 17 games after beating Samford 48-45 Feb.10. The Bears beat Samford, WCU and UNCG by a combined 13 points. To put that into perspective, the last time they won by less than 12 points was Dec. 28 against North Carolina. Still, two of the last three games have been won by three points.
"It's been awhile since we have been in a close game like this, and perhaps it was time we were put in the pressure situation to see how we respond,” Gardner said after the Samford win.
The Bears are now one win from the most wins in a single season under Gardner and will likely nab another one as they end the regular season against University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and ETSU on Feb. 22 and 24. The SoCon tournament begins March 1 in Asheville, North Carolina.
Sydni Means now has 220 total assists this season, besting last year’s personal record of 216. She is now seven assists from passing Whitney Bunn of Furman for third all-time in Southern Conference history.
Mercer Women’s Basketball was voted into the USA Today Top-25 for the first time in the program’s history since joining the Division I era. The Bears debuted at number 25 on Tuesday after collecting votes for the past several weeks. This is the first SoCon team to join the Top-25 since Chattanooga did it in 2015.