DeLand, Fla. - The Stetson women's basketball team utilized excellent ball movement and control to record 16 assists on 23 field goals with just eight turnovers in a 68-46 win over visiting Atlantic Sun Conference rival Mercer at the Edmunds Center on Saturday. Junior guard Victoria McGowan (Inkster, Mich.) scored 16 points and dished out eight assists for the Hatters, who improved to 18-5 overall and 9-2 in A-Sun play. Mercer dropped to 3-19, 1-10 A-Sun.
With the win, Stetson swept the season series from Mercer for the second straight year and extended its overall lead to 33-29 in the oldest rivalry in program and A-Sun history. Mercer's 46 points was the second-lowest scoring total allowed by the Hatters this season; Stetson's eight turnovers tied a season low set in the opener against Palm Beach Atlantic on November 11, 2011.
Stetson attacked the rim from the outset, but a 1-12 start from the floor allowed the Bears to claim an early six-point advantage. McGowan would find freshman guard Jama Sharp (Mooresville, Ind.), making her first start of the season, for a three-pointer with 13:13 left in the first half that drew Stetson within 10-8. That basket kickstarted a 12-0 run for the Hatters that put the Bears in their rearview mirror for the remainder of the contest.
Junior forward Janelle Mills (Wesley Chapel, Fla.) knocked down a hook shot in the paint to spark another 8-0 run that culminated with a Sharp bucket for a 27-16 lead, Stetson's largest of the first half with 4:27 to go before intermission. The Hatters took a 33-25 advantage into the locker room with McGowan scoring six points and handing out five assists in the first period; sophomore forward Sasha Sims (Fayetteville, Ga.) led the team with seven points.
A Briana Williams three-pointer with 17:12 left in the second half drew Mercer within three, but that was as close as Stetson would allow the Bears. The Hatters converted on their next three possessions with a pair of defensive stops, pushing the lead to 45-36 at the first media timeout. When junior guard Ashley Dennis (Bexley, Ohio) nailed a three-pointer from the left corner for a 48-38 edge with 12:16 to play, the lead would never slip back to single digits again and the Hatters cruised home to the 22-point final margin of victory.
McGowan made five of eight field goal attempts and all four of her free throw attempts for her second straight 16-point, eight-assist total. She equaled that stat line in Thursday's 73-68 home win over Kennesaw State. Freshman forward Cherisse Burris (Blue Springs, Mo.) scored 12 points and grabbed a team-high six rebounds with fellow freshman forward Jazmin Garcia (Peekskill, N.Y.) adding 10 points.
Williams led all scorers with 20 points for the Bears. Jasmine Blakemore chipped in for Mercer with 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Stetson won the turnover battle 8-21 and dished out 16 assists to Mercer's nine.
"I think our defense was very good today," Head Coach Lynn Bria said afterwards. "We collapsed very hard on the ball in the paint in our man-to-man defense and we were able to limit those touches in the paint in the first place thanks to our zone defense. Offensively, our dribble drive got us into the paint and we did a good job as a team of finishing those opportunities."
The Hatters will be back in action at 7:00 pm Thursday when they tip off at Swisher Gymnasium against A-Sun rival Jacksonville. Fans can watch the game on ASun.TV with a Hatter Vision simulcast for subscribers. Live Stats, if available, will be linked at GoHatters.com.
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