Women’s Basketball Hosts Auburn in Season Opener
MACON, Ga. – The Mercer women's basketball team officially tips off the 2011-12 season on Friday, hosting Auburn at 7 p.m. in the University Center. Friday's game marks the first athletic event of Mercer's 2011 Homecoming weekend.
LAST TIME OUT
The Mercer women's basketball team placed three players in double figures and extended a three point halftime lead to 30 in the second half of Thursday night's exhibition game against Georgia College. When the final buzzer sounded at the University Center, the Bears had booked a 73-43 victory in their lone exhibition contest of the season.
SCOUTING THE OPPPOSITION
Friday's game marks the second-straight year Mercer and Auburn have started their respective seasons against one another. Last year, Mercer fell at Auburn, 79-61 on November 12, 2010. In that game, Mercer got a game-high 23 points from Briana Williams.
Auburn was picked to finish ninth in the SEC in a pair of preseason polls by the SEC media and coaches. The Tigers return 10 letterwinners and three starters from last year's team that finished 16-16 (8-8 SEC).
Last year, Auburn advanced to the second round of the WNIT before falling to Toledo, 67-52. Auburn leads the all-time series between the teams, 11-9.
After winning each of the first nine games, Mercer has not beaten Auburn in 11-straight meetings. The last time Mercer topped Auburn was December 15, 1979. Auburn is currently riding a 32-game winning streak in season openers. The Tigers are also 13-9 all-time versus Atlantic Sun competition.
The 2011-12 basketball season marks a new beginning for head coach Susie Gardner and her staff at Mercer. Gone are memories of a 2-27 record a season ago, instead replaced with excitement for a rebirth of the Mercer basketball program.
This year, Gardner enters her second season at Mercer and is eager to give fans a taste of a team truly fashioned in her image. Gardner welcomes back six players from last year, players who have bought in to her system and are committed to the long-term success of the program.
Joining the six returners are eight newcomers – a hand-picked selection of talent that comprise Gardner's first recruiting class at Mercer. Three post players and five guards are among the new arrivals, creating a healthy competition for playing time.
On paper, the Bears are again one of the youngest teams in the nation, with zero seniors, four juniors, four sophomores and six freshmen on the roster. But look between the lines and you'll see that the sophomores and juniors on the team are among the most experienced players in the conference.
Also back are juniors Kendra Grant and Alex Phillips. Grant was undoubtedly the emotional leader of last year's squad, but suffered a knee injury that kept her sidelined for the second half of her sophomore campaign. Phillips had a breakout season in 2010-11, bumping her scoring average from 1.8 points per game in her freshman season to 7.5 last year.
The combination of five returning starters, two key reserves and six newcomers provide Mercer fans the opportunity to get in on the ground level of Gardner's main project – the resurgence of the Mercer women's basketball program.
Friday's game will be broadcast on FOX Sports Radio 1670 AM with play-by-play provided by the "Voice of the Bears", Rick Cameron. Web streaming of the game will also be available via A-Sun TV.