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The Stetson women’s basketball team began Atlantic Sun Conference play Monday with a convincing 74-41 victory over host Mercer at Hawkins Arena in Macon, Ga.

Victoria McGowan and Sasha Sims each scored 21 points as the Hatters (8-4, 1-0 A-Sun) won for the seventh time in their last eight games.

“I really liked our defense, I thought we played very tough,” Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said.  “Mercer is probably the most improved team in our league, and you have to guard them because they can score points in a hurry.  We had a really good team effort.”

The Hatters also exceled on offense, topping the 70-point mark for the fifth straight game.  Stetson shot a season-high 56.3 percent from the floor and used a 16-0 run across halftime en route to the 33-point victory.

Playing the first game of a two-game road swing, Stetson was able to start conference play on a winning note.

“I think it's really important, especially when you open up on the road,” Bria said.  “Anytime you get wins on the road it’s a bonus.  We played well, and I am really pleased with how we played more than anything."

McGowan and Sims combined to hit 16 of their 23 shots from the floor. McGowan went 8-for-11 and hit four threes, while Sims was 8-for-12 including a pair of buckets from behind the arc.  She also added two assists, two blocks, and a steal.

“I thought Sasha Sims gave us probably her best game of the year, and it came at a great time,” Bria said.  “She is our most versatile player and hopefully she can keep it going in 2013.”

Adding to the offensive effort was Shanasa Sanders with eight points and five assists, while Cherisse Burris, Janelle Mills, and Jama Sharp chipped in six points apiece.

“Getting off to a good start in conference is key, especially for us,” Sims said. “We executed the game plan very well today.  We also seem to be very comfortable playing in this gym.”

The Hatters have played well of late at Hawkins Arena, winning eight of their last nine games including conference tournament games. Mercer will host the A-Sun Championship again in 2013.

McGowan surpassed the 1200-point mark for her career, becoming the 14th player in school history to do so.  She led the Hatters with nine rebounds, but the Bears (6-6, 0-1 A-Sun) held a 38-27 advantage on the boards.  

“I thought they hurt us on the glass,” Bria said.  “Rebounding has been an emphasis for us and we have to a better job of giving the opponent just one shot.  But we did do a great job of contesting their shots.”

Kendra Grant led the Bears (6-6, 0-1 A-Sun) with 15 points.

Stetson will continue its road trip at Kennesaw State on Wednesday afternoon.  Tip-off is slated for 2:30 p.m.  The video broadcast can be seen live on HatterVision via ASun.TV, and an audio broadcast on WSBB has been added as well.

Update: A postgame scoring correction has added two points for Sasha Sims (23 points) and subtracted two points for Janelle Mills (four points).

Notes: The Hatters have won five straight games over the Bears … Stetson went 20-12 in the calendar year 2012 … The Hatters are 11-2 in their last two Decembers combined … Stetson’s four-game winning streak is a season-high for any A-Sun team … Victoria McGowan is now 13th in school history and 50th in conference history in points scored (1211) …  Stetson shot over 50% for the third straight game and the Hatters have outscored their last three opponents by a combined total of 91 points … Stetson hit eight threes for the seventh time in 12 games this season … Amena Brent scored her first career point with on a second half free throw.


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