JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jacksonville women's basketball (7-6) earned their seventh victory of the season Wednesday afternoon, defeating Mercer (8-6) by a score of 71-66. It was a back and forth game that saw nine lead changes, but it was Jacksonville overcoming a fourth quarter deficit to win the last non-conference game on the schedule.
After allowing the Bears to grab a quick five points to begin the game, the Dolphins battled back, going on an 11 - 2 run to take a lead that they'd hold onto for most of the first half. Both teams shot just 30 percent during the first 10 minutes, but it was Jacksonville holding the two point advantage heading into the second.
The two teams traded buckets early in the second, and neither team was able to grow a substantial lead. The Dolphins did gain some separation by the first media timeout, upping the lead to seven with a pair of threes by Mariah Batz and Jasmyn Brown. However, the Bears crept back into the driver seat with a go-ahead bucket that came with under a minute to play. The teams went into the locker rooms with Mercer holding a 33-31 lead.
Again, the two teams traded leads during the third, with four lead changes coming in the 10 minute period alone. It was during the third that Rolanda Hayes, who was named the ASUN Player of the Week this week, began to get hot. Hayes and Kiara Meeks combined for 11 of the Dolphins' 13 third quarter points.
It was during the fourth quarter that Mercer grabbed their biggest lead of the game, a seven point advantage with under eight minutes remaining. Then, with under five minutes left and the Bears leading 55-51, Jacksonville put together a pivotal sequence of turnovers that resulted in seven points in seven seconds for the Dolphins. Now up 60-55, Jacksonville's lead would get no smaller than three during the remainder of the game, and they managed to hold off the Bears until the final buzzer.
Meeks led all scorers with 21 points, nine of which came from the charity stripe. Meeks also grabbed four rebounds and three assists. Hayes followed Meeks with 16 points, her second double-digit scoring effort in two games. Behind Hayes was Trudy Walker, who grabbed six steals to go along with 12 points and nine rebounds.
"We learned that if we honor the game, good things are going to happen," said Head Coach Darnell Haney. "I'm proud of this group because they came out with a little adversity. Mercer had gotten up in the first half, they were hitting some shots that they don't normally hit, but we stayed with it. We stayed the course, and we got the W. I'm proud of them. Now we've got to get ready for conference play."
Jacksonville begins conference play on Saturday, Jan. 5 when they play host to the Lipscomb Bisons (2-11). Jacksonville defeated the Bisons twice last season, and lead the all-time series 22-10. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 PM.