Mercer escapes Chattanooga women’s comeback


MACON, Ga. (UTC Athletics) — Chattanooga outscored Mercer 22-7 in the third quarter but it wasn’t enough as the Mocs fell 55-48 to the Bears at Hawkins Arena Saturday afternoon in Southern Conference women’s basketball action. Both teams move to 4-16 overall while the Mocs even out its SoCon record at 3-3 and Mercer enjoys its first victory in league play to improve to 1-4.

Bria Dial was 4-of-4 in the third with two 3-pointers, scoring half of her team-high 20 points in the frame. She was 8-of-14 for the game. Abbey Cornelius added 11 points and eight rebounds and NaKeia Burks had 10 points with three assists. Eboni Williams had 12 rebounds, three assists and two steals.

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“I don’t know where that fire was in the first half,” Chattanooga head coach Katie Burrows said. “It is discouraging that I have to try to press in order to get that fire out of us. We looked pretty darn good with it. It’s just a shame that we dug ourselves that big of a hole in the first half.”

Chattanooga trailed Mercer 35-16 at the half but put together a stellar third quarter to cut the lead to one point in the final minutes of the period.

Cornelius drew a foul to start the quarter and got a 12-0 run started with a pair of free throws just seconds into the third. Her defensive rebound on the other end resulted in a 3-pointer by Burks and the Mocs were running.

Dial scored the Mocs’ next five points with a layup and one from range to make it 35-26 with less than two minutes played in the quarter. Mercer called a timeout to stop the carnage, but Burks played the ball up high and snagged a steal that resulted in a fast break basket to cap the run at 35-28 with 7:56 remaining in the period.

The team traded baskets before UTC put together another run, this time eight points, to cut the lead to 39-38 with 3:18 left in the third. Williams hit a layup at the 5:31 mark. The Mocs’ bench erupted on back-to-back 3-pointers from Cornelius and Dial making it a one-point game.

Mercer pushed the lead back to four points with a free throw and a jumper and led 42-38 with 10 minutes to play.

Chattanooga forced a turnover to start the fourth and cut the lead to 42-40 on a layup from Cornelius. The Bears, however, got scoring from Jaron Dougherty and Shannon Titus and never lost the lead.

“When you are scoring points, you put more pressure on them on the other end,” Burrows said. “They start to tighten up and that is what happened in the second half. Normally, we get a good start. This time we didn’t.”

Doughtery led all scorers with 29 points, including 12 in the second quarter alone, and had a double-double with 12 rebounds and added four blocked shots. Titus had 18 points on 8-of-20 and had eight rebounds and three blocks.

UTC was 19-of-56 (33.9%) for the game and 5-16 from the 3-point line. In the third the Mocs were 8-of-16 from the field and 4-of-6 from long range. They had just six attempts from the free throw line, making five.

The teams were even in the paint with each scoring 22 points, but Mercer had an 18-12 advantage on points off turnovers and 4-3 on second chance. UTC had six fast break points to the Bears’ one. Neither bench scored in the game and Mercer edged the Mocs on the boards 36-34.

Mercer shot 40.4 percent (23-57) and was held without a 3-pointer while making 9-of-15 from the free throw line.

Chattanooga will return to action next Saturday at ETSU with a 1:00 p.m. matchup against the Bucs.