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Lipscomb (3-19, 0-11 A-Sun)
Mercer (12-10, 5-6 A-Sun)
2/8/2014 | Macon, Ga. - Hawkins Arena | Attendance: 1007
Saturday, February 08, 2014
MACON, Ga. – Following the loss at Kennesaw State on Thursday, one word that continued to be used was “identity”.
The Lady Bisons have struggled all season trying to find out just who this team is. Saturday at Mercer, they finally found it.
After leading for most of the first half, Lipscomb was unable to hold on in the end and Mercer prevailed with a 76-71 triumph on its home court.
“I was really proud of their intensity and their effort,” Lipscomb coach Greg Brown said. “The one thing I told them was ‘I think we found an identity.’ We saw how hard we can play and things we can do.
“The crazy thing is, this is still only about the sixth game this group has played together as a full team. If we can carry this forward and get one (win), we are still in position to get into the conference tournament. And that is all you can ask for, is to play in the tournament and then we can make a new season out of that.”
Saturday the Lady Bisons picked up right where they left off on Thursday. Chandler Cooper stroked 3-pointers on her first two shots, a vision of what was to come for the red-shirt freshman.
Kendra Grant nailed a 3-pointer at the 16:31 mark to give Mercer its only lead in the first 20 minutes at 10-9. Georgia native, Elise Spann put her team back on top with a nice shot fake to go up and under the defender for an easy layup.
The Lady Bisons played with intensity throughout the first half. Playing a full-court pressure style of defense, Lipscomb forced Mercer into 10 first half turnovers.
“I thought we saw that fire and intensity in the second half at Kennesaw State,” Brown said. “We talked a lot about developing an identity. This trip was good for us as far as growing closer together and understanding what we can do together as a team.
“I thought we had great contributions coming off the bench with a lot of energy. I am just so proud of the effort and everything we did.”
The Lady Bisons lead by as many as six in the opening half. They knocked down six treys to take a 38-35 lead into the break. It was the first halftime lead for Lipscomb since Dec. 14 at Jacksonville State, when the Lady Bisons led 44-41.
Grant hit a bucket to bring Mercer to within one in the opening minutes of the second period, but Sara Bliss and Cooper picked up where they left off in the first and hit back-to-back-to-back threes to push Lipscomb’s lead back out to 47-39, its largest lead of the game.
Mercer then began to chip away at the lead.
If there was one area on the court the Lady Bisons struggled, it was in the paint. The Bears had a height advantage that could not be match by Lipscomb. 6-foot-5 center Teanna Robinson had her way in the paint, almost collecting a triple-double with 13 points, 12 rebounds and eight blocks.
Robinson grabbed an offensive rebound and a put back on two consecutive trips to cut Lipscomb’s lead to four.
“Mercer got us on that,” Brown said. “But there again, I am not going to fault our effort. Mercer is very athletic and long inside. We knew that was going to be an obstacle for us.”
Bliss scored four straight points for Lipscomb to lead 51-45.
Mercer then went on an 8-0 run to regain the momentum and take the lead, 53-51.
From there it was a back-and-forth affair with the two teams swapping leads four times over the next five minutes.
Mercer jumped out to its largest lead of the game at five on free throws from Precious Bridges to make it 73-68 with just 43 seconds to play.
Six seconds later, Cooper caught the ball on the left wing and drained her eighth and final 3-pointer to make it a two point game.
Mercer hit three free throws to end the game and drop Lipscomb to 3-19 overall and 0-11 in conference play.
The win improved the Bears to 12-10 overall and 5-6 in the A-Sun.
The rim must have seemed like an ocean to Cooper, she finished the contest with a career-high 31 points. She credits her teammates for her success on Saturday.
“I think it came from more of a team mentality,” Cooper said. “We came into the game expecting a win. That was the attitude of everyone tonight and we all just fed off of that.”
Cooper tied former Lady Bisons standout and current assistant coach Anna Bowers for the most threes in a single-game in school history. It also tied a Hawkins Arena record for most threes in a game.
“We talked about identity a bunch,” Cooper said. “We have changed a lot over the year. We haven’t been consistent with offense and defense, but the coaches and the players think we have found our identity and this should be how we play throughout the rest of the season and into the conference tournament.”
She also was credited with three steals.
“Chandler is not going to be at full strength yet,” Brown said with a smile. “She does a great job of moving and her teammates did a good job of getting her the ball.
For the game, Lipscomb connected on 24-of-69 shots (34.8 percent), hit 12-of-34 threes (35.3 percent) and 11-of-13 from the charity stripe (84.6). The 12 made 3-pointers were the second most of the season for the Lady Bisons.
Mercer made 31-of-74 shots (41.9 percent), 2-of-6 threes (33.3 percent) and 12-of-15 free throws (80 percent).
Rebounding was the difference in the game for Lipscomb as Mercer outrebounded the Lady Bisons 55-37, including 19 offensive boards. Lipscomb had just 10.
“Obviously we have to rebound better and tighten up a few turnovers here and there,” Brown said. “That is just experience playing through some things and trying to grow. We have to have three good practices and get ready for Jacksonville and North Florida coming in.”
The Lady Bisons had 15 assists and 12 turnovers, while Mercer had 17 assists and 16 turnovers.
Bliss finished with 10 points and five rebounds. Fothergill failed to reach double-digits for the first time all season, scoring only nine first half points.
Ashley Southern failed to get a double-double for only the fifth time this season. She finished with eight points and six boards.
Spann added seven points.
Williams led Mercer with 19 points. 6-foot-3 Kate Alemann just missed a double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds.
Grant poured in 13 for Mercer.
Cooper likes what she saw from her team tonight and believes that must build off of this game moving forward.
“At Kennesaw we only had a half,” Cooper said. “We talked about building off of that, and today we finally put two halves together and we all are very proud of our effort. The next game now, we just have to put all of that together and get a win out of it.”
The Lady Bisons return home on Thursday Feb. 13 when Jacksonville visits Allen Arena at 6 p.m.