“Huge,” Bowers said. “This is so huge for us. We needed this.”
The Lady Bisons successfully opened the Atlantic Sun portion of their schedule with a 67-57 win over Mercer Saturday night at Allen Arena.
“We were picked last in the preseason,” Lady Bisons coach Frank Bennett said. “It set a tone for this team to win the first conference game. The confidence angle is very important to us.”
Guards Jenna Bartsokas and Bowers combined for 33 points. Bartsokas led the Lady Bisons with 18 points, with half coming off of 3-point shots. Bowers finished with 15, her sixth double figures scoring performance in seven games. All of her points were on 3-pointers.
“We rely on each other,” Bowers said of Bartsokas. “We complement each other.
“Our whole team has stepped up. We would not be getting the shots we are getting without a good team effort.”
Forward Leah McAlister made her second start of the season and scored 10 points.
What made the performances by Bartsokas and Bowers interesting was that each of them only had three points in the first half.
“Anna was one-for-five and Jenna was one-for-six, but we had a 30-28 lead,” Bennett said. “I thought it was really good that everybody picked it up. In the second half both of them picked it up and shot around 50 percent.
“I was pleased we found a way to overcome the first half shooting. In the second half right off the bat we made a couple of baskets to increase the lead. That was a big thing.”
In their previous two games the Lady Bisons had allowed 40 points in the first half. They held Mercer, playing without starting forward Alex Phillips who was ill, to 28 points in the first 20 minutes.
“We held them under 30 for both halves which was a key thing for us,” Bennett said. “Our goal was to hold them to 25 each half. We didn’t quite reach that, but it was better than 40.”
Brittnee Hazel scored a game-high 21 points for Mercer. Also in double figures was Briana Williams with 18.
Mercer outrebounded the Lady Bisons 39-29 with Sharmesia Smith leading the way with a game-high nine.
Forward Brittany Duerk was the top rebounder for the Lady Bisons with five.
“We played a pretty solid game,” Bennett said. “We didn’t beat ourselves. The second half we shot the ball better. We got some key rebounds when we had to get them.
“They see that if they play solid and really play hard they can be successful. There were times in the second half when Mercer made a mini-run and we got a stop or knocked down a basket. I would like to see when we get a 10-point lead to go to 12, 14 or 16 points ahead. I thought it was a good effort though.”
The Lady Bisons are 3-4, 1-0 in the conference. Mercer is 1-6, 1-1 in the conference.
Wednesday night the Lady Bisons travel to Clarksville to face Austin Peay at 7.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.