IOWA CITY, Iowa – Fifteenth-seeded Mercer's upset bid came up just short in a 66-61 loss to No. 2-seeded Iowa in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday afternoon.
The Bears (25-8) forced Iowa (27-6) into 24 turnovers and tallied a season-best 17 steals behind a tenacious defensive game plan that translated to Mercer owning a two-point lead with just over four minutes remaining in the contest. Mercer was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament with the loss while Iowa advanced to the second round, where it will play No. 7 Missouri, which defeated No. 10 Drake in overtime.
How It Happened
A buzzer-beating bucket by Shannon Titus at the end of the third quarter gave Mercer its first lead of the game, 51-50, and officially put the Hawkeyes on upset alert on their home court. Both teams traded blows to open the fourth quarter with Rachel Selph hitting a layup to go lead 53-52. Mercer's largest advantage of the contest (56-52) came with six minutes and 58 seconds remaining when KeKe Calloway knocked down one of her five three-pointers.
Calloway scored Mercer's final eight points in the game and made another three-pointer to regain the lead, 59-57, for Mercer. Iowa stifled the Bears' attack down the stretch, however. Shannon Titus fouled out with 2:56 remaining and Iowa leading 60-59. With Mercer trailing by three points with 13 seconds left, a jump ball was rewarded to Iowa, who then sealed it with two made free throws. The Hawkeyes scored nine of the final 11 points in the game.
Mercer's defensive presence kept the game tight throughout. Titus set the tone defensively in the first quarter, tallying two blocks and one steal on the Hawkeyes' first four possessions. The Bears fed off that and recorded seven steals and one block as a team over the first 10 minutes. Despite a scoring drought of nearly three minutes, Mercer heated up toward the end of the quarter and hit its final four shots, including two jumpers by Amanda Thompson, to trail by just four points, 16-12.
Five more steals by the Bears late in the second quarter helped them score eight of the final 13 points in the half to trail Iowa, 35-27, heading into the locker room. A pivotal 7-0 run with baskets by Calloway, Titus and Thompson in the third quarter shifted momentum in favor of Mercer. The Bears outscored Iowa, 24-15, in the frame.
Susie Gardner's opening statement…
"Well, obviously it's disappointing with the outcome. I'm so proud of the way our guys competed and battled. It was a great basketball environment. I felt like their fans really pulled them through when they needed to be pulled through and our guys kept bouncing back and we had opportunities. We never went away. We got off to a shaky start. We were missing a lot of shots that we normally don't miss. But we feel good about our effort. We feel good about the game plan. You know, and we lost to a really, really good Iowa basketball team."
Player of the Game
Amanda Thompson was the glue yet again for Mercer on Friday, doing a bit of everything to will the Bears to a near upset. The senior totaled 18 points (9-of-16), seven rebounds, six steals and two assists.
» Mercer tallied a season-best 17 steals. It was Mercer's most steals in a game since Nov. 29, 2016.
» Mercer scored 18 points off Iowa's 24 turnovers.
» The Bears did not attempt one free throw in the game.
» Amanda Thompson's six steals were two shy of a season-high.
» KeKe Calloway scored a team-high 21 points. She finished her career with 298 made three-pointers.
» Rachel Selph led Mercer with eight rebounds and added eight points.
» Four Bears recorded at least three steals.
» Mercer held Iowa's bench scoreless.
» Friday was the first all-time meeting between Mercer and Iowa.
» #15 Mercer: 25-8
» #2 Iowa: 27-6