MACON, Ga. – After seeing its five-game winning streak snapped last weekend, the Mercer women’s basketball team shot a season-high 52.9 percent from the field to defeat Atlantic Sun newcomer Kennesaw State, 69-55.
After a slow start, the Bears used a 12-4 run over two-minute streak in the first half to take a 22-11 lead midway through. The Lady Owls trimmed the lead down to five with 7:19 remaining in the half off a Shavonder Clarke jumper, but Tanya Kessenich pushed the Bears' lead back to nine with consecutive layups.
Mercer (9-7, 6-3 A-Sun) continued to dominate the paint in the second half led by Sarah Russell and Kessenich. The Bears took advantage of the Lady Owls collapsing on the paint as Sally Skeldon hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Mercer a 10-point lead with 13:24 remaining.
Kennesaw State (2-14, 2-8 A-Sun) cut the lead to seven twice but was unable to get any closer. Both teams mishandled the ball at times but neither could capitalize on the offensive end. Mercer had just 10 points off 18 KSU turnovers, while the Lady Owls had 17 points off 25 Bears' miscues.
Clarke tried to carry Kennesaw State on her back, shooting 5-of-8 from the field and grabbing seven rebounds in the second half to finish with a game-high 21 points and 11 rebounds. Danielle Bates added 12 for the Lady Owls.
Kessenich tied her career-high with 16 points while shooting 8-of-9 from the floor and grabbing five rebounds. Russell shot 4-for-5 and grabbed six rebounds in the second half to finish with 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Skeldon earned her first career double-double the hard way with 10 points and 10 assists.
“This is our house and we wanted to defend it,” said Mercer head coach Brenda Welch-Nichols. “We had players step up big for us tonight. We played a lot better offensively and kept things under control, but we need to be more responsible with the ball because turnovers could have hurt us more than they did.”
Mercer completes the A-Sun newcomer trifecta when it hosts East Tennessee State Saturday at 2 p.m.