MACON, Ga. – Despite three players finishing in double figures, the Mercer women's basketball team came up just short against Atlantic Sun foe Gardner-Webb. The Bulldogs led by as many as 13 in the second half and held on for the 77-74 win.
Shameka Smith put GWU on the scoreboard first with a jumper in the paint but the teams battled back and forth throughout the first half. The opening stanza featured seven ties and six lead changes as Gardner-Webb (10-14, 9-8 A-Sun) led 33-32 at the break.
Mercer (11-12, 8-8 A-Sun) made its first two field goals of the second half to take a 37-35 lead but hit a dry spell afterward. Gardner-Webb went on a 14-3 run over the next three minutes to build an 11-point lead.
"We weren't driving to the basket," said Mercer head coach Brenda Welch-Nichols. "We were penetrating around the cattle guards instead of through the cattle guards."
Down 12 with 3:37 left, the Bears started making a push. Sarah Russell drained back-to-back 3-pointers to bring Mercer within three with 15 seconds left. A missed free throw from Candyse Kelly put the GWU lead back to four but Rhonda Owens trimmed it to one with a try with .7 seconds remaining.
Jessica Bryant made two free throws at the other end after being fouled before the inbounds pass, giving the Bulldogs a three-point lead. The Bears were unable to get off a desperation basket and GWU swept the season series for the first time ever.
Kelly led GWU with 16 points while Smith added 14 and Brittany Harmon contributed 12 and a team-high nine rebounds.
Russell led all scorers with 17 points while Tanya Kessenich added 15 and a team-high eight rebounds. Courtney Hall added 10 points off the bench. Sally Skeldon tied a career-high with 10 assists.
"We just ran out of time," added Nichols."We had some defensive mishaps that cost us some baskets."
The Bears return to action Thursday on the road against East Tennessee State. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.