Young Mocs Fall To Mercer 65-56

Thursday, February 22, 2018
 University of Tennessee at Chattanooga freshmen Brooke Burns and Mya Long combined for 36 points in the Mocs’ 65-56 loss to Mercer in Southern Conference women’s basketball action at Hawkins Arena Thursday night. Chattanooga falls to 16-11 on the year and 7-6 in league play. The Bears, ranked 25th in the USA Today Coaches Top 25 Poll, are now 26-2 and 13-0 in SoCon action.

“The whole season was to get these young players to the point that they would be capable of doing what they were doing today,” Chattanooga head coach Jim Foster said.
“Holding them accountable and not letting them get away with a bunch of bad habits, even though they still have a few.

“I just decided I was going to do it differently with this group. I think you saw today that it makes a difference.”

Burns scored a team-high 21 points, a career best for the freshman making her second start. She was 8-of-16 from the field with three 3-pointers. Long, making her first collegiate start in place of injured senior Keiana Gilbert, played 35 minutes and had a career-best 15 points and four rebounds. 

Mercer outscored the Mocs 16-8 in the second half of the fourth quarter to finally pull away. Neither team was never more than five or six points ahead for most of the game. The Bears’ largest lead came on their final bucket.

The Mocs scored first in the game, going up 5-0 on the Bears on a layup from Long. Mercer pulled to within a point twice in the opening quarter, but UTC would lead it 15-12 after the first 10 minutes. The Bears took the lead for the first time more than halfway through the second quarter on a free throw from KeKe Calloway to make it 23-22 with 4:20 left in the frame.

Chattanooga briefly retook the lead on a jumper from senior Aryanna Gilbert who ended the game with seven points but Mercer scored the next six points to push the lead to 29-24 with 2:12 to play in the second. Burns tied it up with a layup and 3-pointer for a 29-29 tie with 1:33 on the clock. 

Mercer retook the lead and headed into halftime with a 34-29 advantage.

Chattanooga outscored the Bears 13-11 in the third quarter. Sophomore Lakelyn Bouldin started the scoring with a 3-pointer at the start of the period to get the Mocs to within two points, 34-32. Mercer pulled away twice by five points, but Chattanooga would not go away.

Long hit for four points in the third, including two of the Mocs four free throws in the game. UTC pulled to within one point twice in the period, but couldn’t get past the Bears.

The fourth quarter started with Long and Burns combining for the first four points to give UTC its final lead of the game, 46-45, with 7:18 to play.

Kahlia Lawrence made both of her free throws and the Bears went back on top. Means converted a jumper following a missed basket by the Mocs midway through the final frame to put Mercer up 49-46. A bucket by Chattanooga’s Whitaker on the ensuing possession cut it to 49-48, but a UTC foul put Lawrence at the line for the second time in the last quarter.

Lawrence made both free throws to start a 16-8 run over the final 4:35.

Burns sank a 3-pointer with 3:59 to play and the Mocs were within striking distance at 53-51. Rachel Selph’s layup 20 seconds later followed by one free throw from Calloway, gave Mercer a 56-51 lead with 2:46 on the clock.

Whitaker, who closed out the contest with a game-high 12 rebounds, hit a short jumper to make it a 56-53 contest. Lawrence’s jumper pushed it back to five points, but Long drained a 3-pointer on an offensive rebound by Burns and Chattanooga was back to within a pair, 58-56 with 1:23 remaining in the game.

Mercer scored the final seven points, however, forcing a turnover and grabbing a defensive rebound for the final 65-56 score.

Chattanooga was 23-of-51 from the field (45.1%) and was 6-of-12 from the 3-point line and outrebounded Mercer 35-31. The Bears edged UTC 24-22 in the paint and shot 41 percent (25-of-61) from the field. They scored 17 points off 16 Chattanooga miscues compared to the Mocs’ two points off four Mercer turnovers. Chattanooga had 16 second chance points on nine offensive boards.

Whitaker had eight points to go along with her 12 rebounds and had three blocked shots and two assists. Gilbert had seven points and eight rebounds and played all 40 minutes. 

Mercer was led by Lawrence’s game-best 25 points. She was 9-of-20 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line. Calloway added 20 points and was 3-of-6 from long range with seven rebounds. The Bears were 12-of-16 from the free throw line compared to the Mocs’ 4-of-4 and proved to be the difference. Sydni Means dished out 12 assists and had three of Mercer’s 10 steals.

The Mocs will close out the regular season Saturday at Samford. The game will tip at 3:00 p.m. EST at the Pete Hanna Center. Follow all the action online at GoMocs.com.

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