MACON, Ga. – Despite trailing by as much as 13 in the first half, the Mercer women's basketball team clawed its way back into the game and force overtime. Sarah Russell and Sally Skeldon combined to score seven of Mercer's nine points in overtime as the Bears defeated Belmont, 64-62.
Belmont (8-5, 4-2 A-Sun) started slowly, but built a 10-point lead midway through the first half behind Alysha Clark's strong free throw shooting. The freshman recorded seven of her 13 points from the free throw line during the first half.
The Bears battled back, but could never find an offensive groove during the opening stanza. Mercer trailed 32-20 at the half. The second half was the different story, however.
Mercer (7-6, 4-2 A-Sun) quickly cut the Belmont lead down to two with 15:34 remaining in the game. "The team played with a lot of heart and determination in the second half," said Mercer head coach Brenda Welch-Nichols. "We played with a lot of enthusiasm, emotion and effort in the second half."
The Bears took a 43-42 lead midway through the half after Erin Keller converted on two free throws. Mercer extended its lead to as many as four on multiple occasions, but could not seal the deal late.
Clark forced overtime on her lay-up with 37 seconds remaining, as Mercer failed to convert on its next possession. In overtime, Russell and Skeldon took charge.
Russell hit a lay-up with 1:07 remaining to give Mercer a one-point lead. Belmont answered with a lay-up from Clark, going up 62-61 with 51 seconds left.
Skeldon's two steals with under 30 seconds remaining closed the door, as she hit three of the four free throws to secure the victory.
Belmont had three players in double figures, as Clark pulled down a double-double with 27 points and 18 rebounds. Laura Cowley had 12 and Jenny Conkle finished with 10.
Russell had a career-high 20 points and grabbed a team-high six rebounds, while Keller finished with 13 points while going 7-for-9 at the free throw line.