MACON, Ga. – After winning four of its last five games, the Mercer women's basketball team opens a two-game Atlantic Sun homestand against Lipscomb Thursday night. Game Notes
Mercer (5-6, 2-2 A-Sun) opened 2006 in winning fashion with a pair of A-Sun victories: at home against Florida Atlantic (70-60, Jan. 2) and on the road against Stetson (53-44, Jan. 5). The Bears have won four of their last five going back to a 52-49 win over Southern Miss in December.
Sarah Russell leads the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 11.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Erin Keller has picked up the pace since moving into the starting lineup against Southern Miss. The Louisiana native is now averaging 7.0 points per game.
Lipscomb (3-8, 2-2 A-Sun) has played much of the season without two of its top players: Catie Woods and Katie Beth Pate. The duo returned to action last weekend, helping the Lady Bisons sweep Campbell and Gardner-Webb. Pate leads the team with 19 blocks and is averaging 9.8 points and 9.0 rebounds. Woods directs the offense and provides Lipscomb with an outside threat, shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point range.
"They're very patient. They're very well coached. They're very methodical," said Mercer head coach Brenda Welch-Nichols. "Frank [Bennett] is a very good coach and his players work very hard for him. I think the return of Pate and Woods give them that missing link in the chain which makes them a better team."
The Bears have put together a two-game winning streak behind some of the best defense in the league. Mercer is second in the A-Sun in scoring defense, allowing 62.2 points per game, and first in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to a paltry 36 percent shooting from the field.
"The girls are beginning to just play the game and understand what everything is about. Players are beginning to step up and fill their roles," Nichols said. "Our defensive play has improved with each game. Now we're matching our defensive intensity with our offensive execution."
Tip-off is at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the University Center.