Bears Give up Lead Late in 70-64 Defeat Against USC Upstate
MACON, Ga. – Despite holding a five point lead with just under six minutes remaining in the game, the Mercer women's basketball team couldn't sustain its advantage, falling 70-64 to the visiting Spartans from USC Upstate on Wednesday evening at the University Center.
Mercer drops to 1-12 overall and 1-3 in A-Sun play with the loss, while USC Upstate improved to 7-5 overall and 4-0 in conference action with the win.
"We played hard with intensity tonight," head coach Susie Gardner said. "We had a game plan and our players did and exceptional job of attacking their defense. We put ourselves in position to win, but unfortunately some untimely mistakes cost us."
After taking a 36-32 lead into halftime, USC Upstate came out firing on all cylinders at the start of the second period. The Spartans used a 9-4 run to jump out to a 45-35 lead in the opening 90 seconds of the stanza.
Facing its largest deficit of the game, Mercer employed a lengthy charge that ended in its first lead of the game,49-47, after a Rebecca Clanton three-pointer.
Minutes later, Mercer extended its lead to five with 5:44 left in regulation after a lay-up by sophomore Alex Phillips.
With the Bears now trailing 66-63 with 1:32 to go, Williams sidestepped her defender and drew a foul in the paint. Williams hit the front end of her free throws to trim the deficit to 66-64.
That would be as close as the Orange and Black got the rest of the way, with sophomore Lauren McRoberts hitting three free throws down the stretch to seal the win for the Spartans.
Early on each team started strong offensively, with both squads shooting well above 50% from the field in the opening six minutes of play.
With 14:50 to go, USC Upstate held a slim, 13-11 advantage before scoring five unanswered. The Spartan surge was aided by a three minute scoring drought for the Bears.
Later in the half, USC Upstate held a 20-13 advantage before Mercer freshman Ariel Barnes corralled a defensive rebound and raced the other way, beating her defender down the court and scoring a layup. Barnes was fouled on the play and converted her free throw, cutting the visitor lead to four (20-16).
After the Bears spurt, USC Upstate employed another run and moved in front, 29-21 before Mercer tallied eight-straight points to tie the game for the first time. Mercer's 8-0 run was capped as a streaking Boykin found Alex Phillips under the basket with a half-court chest pass with 3:53 on the clock.
After Mercer tied it at 29, the Orange and Black went cold from the floor, missing five of their last six field goal attempts of the half as USC Upstate would enter intermission on top, 36-31.
Senior Chelsea McMillan led USC Upstate with 19 points and 15 rebounds in the contest.
"We did a great job defending [Chelsea McMillan] in the first half," Gardner said. "With her being the great player she is, she was able to make some key plays in the second half for them."
Mercer resumes A-Sun Conference play when it hits the road to take on Campbell on January 10. Game time is scheduled for 11:45 a.m.