The second half featured 11 lead changes (16 overall) before the Bears (16-7, 10-2) hit a couple of buckets down the stretch for their 10th straight win. Sharmesia Smith scored 16 points to lead the Mercer offense, while Precious Bridges scored 12 points to help the cause.
“I was proud of the way we fought until the end,” JU head coach Jill Dunn said. “We didn’t have enough juice in the end to rally past them. Overall, we keep playing better and I know good things are coming coon.”
Junior Jade Cargill scored 16 points in her first start in two games to pace the Dolphins’ (7-17, 3-10) offense. Freshman Queen Alford and senior Maggie Wilson each finished with 10 points. Alford had 15 of JU’s game-best 45 boards.
Trailing 59-55 with less than five minutes left, Cargill turned an offensive rebound in the lane into a layup to cut JU’s deficit to a bucket. Alford scooped up a loose JU rebound a minute later and drove the baseline line, but was blocked by Ry’van Buchanan. Sharena Boykin followed the block up with a three-pointer to beat the shot clock for a 62-57 Mercer advantage (2:36). After two Bears’ free throws, Wilson connected a three-point play to make it 64-60, but Bridges had a jumper to beat the shot clock to secure Mercer’s win.
Buchanan and Alicia Williams each finished with 10 points as the Bears shot 45.0 percent (27-60) from the floor.
In the first half, the Bears took a 14-10 edge (11:27) from a Williams’ three-point play. Freshman Briona Brown hit three free throws to cut the JU deficit to one, but Mercer kept nailing jumpers for an 18-13 lead with less than eight minutes left. Senior Tracie Sneed knocked down a three-pointer to make it a 26-22 deficit (2:11). The Dolphins hit five of six free throws in the final two minutes to set up a 27-26 halftime advantage.
Brown finished with eight points for JU, while Sneed scored nine points in the loss. The Dolphins would hit 19 of 25 attempts at the free-throw line in the game.
The Dolphins return to action Saturday to host cross-town rival North Florida for another SunTrust River City Rumble installment in Swisher Gymnasium. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.