Freshman Amber Porter led five Hatters in double figures with 15 points as Stetson defeated host Mercer 72-60 in an Atlantic Sun Conference game Thursday night at Hawkins Arena.
A strong second half effort on the boards helped lift the Hatters (11-5, 3-1 A-Sun) to their third win in a row and their eighth victory in their last 10 games. The Bears fell to 9-7, 2-3.
"It was a real important win," said Cherisse Burris, who finished with 12 points, seven rebounds, and a key steal late in the second half. "We need to get our intensity up and play with more confidence on the road, and a win like this will help."
Stetson led 37-33 at halftime, despite Mercer shooting 48.5% from the floor and holding 23-18 advantage on the boards. The Hatters benefitted from 23 points by their freshman, including 10 by Brianti Saunders and six by Stacia Allen.
"I didn't think we came out with a lot of energy in the first half," Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. "We had some open shots that didn't fall for us. (Brianti) was hitting in the first half which kind of saved us, and then Stacia came off the bench and hit a couple of threes that also helped us.
"We came out with a lot more energy in the second half, we got stops, and we rebounded the ball very well," Bria added. "We got on the offensive glass. We got them to turn it over a couple of times and converted a couple of easy baskets."
A quick 6-0 run to start the second half put Stetson ahead 43-33, but Mercer closed the gap to 45-40 at the 16-minute mark. A few minutes later Myeisha Hall picked off a Mercer pass and converted a breakaway lay-up to give Stetson a nine point lead. Hall then grabbed three offensive rebounds over the next couple minutes which turned into five second chance points.
"When Myeisha started hitting the glass, everybody fed off it," Bria said. "I thought (Cherisse) was a monster in the second half. Then Sasha got in there as well. We had a lot of offensive rebounds, and that's what we needed. We weren't making a lot of the outside shots, so we needed to get on the offensive glass. I think that was the difference in the game."
Mercer continued to hang close and cut the deficit to 58-55 with 8:04 to play. That's when Stetson went on a 9-0 run to finally generate some breathing room. Sims had an offensive putback and Jama Sharp hit a three-pointer from the left wing to highlight the run.
Burris would later help ice the game by picking the pocket of Teanna Robinson after the Mercer center grabbed a defensive rebound. Robinson then fouled out when Burris quickly took the ball to basket.
"I was just trying to be aggressive," Burris said. "I knew she had the ball but she brought it down, so I just grabbed it and tried to make it lay-up."
The Hatters finished with 49 rebounds in the game, including 18 on the offensive end. Sharp (11 points), Saunders (10 points) and Sims (10 points) joined Porter and Burris in double figures in scoring. Sims also had nine rebounds and became the fifth player in school history to surpass 1400 career points with a free throw early in the first half.
Stetson improved to 12-1 at Hawkins Arena over the past four seasons, which included championship runs in the 2011 and 2013 Atlantic Sun Tournaments. Mercer will leave the Atlantic Sun Conference next season.
"We do love coming here, we have some great memories here, and it is a special place for us," Bria said.
The Hatters will go for their fourth win a row at Kennesaw State Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is slated for 2 p.m. in game broadcast on ESPN3.