MACON, Ga. - The Mercer women's basketball teams' record setting 2013 campaign came to an end on Thursday evening after suffering an 82-70 setback to McNeese State in the first round of the Women's Basketball Invitational at Hawkins Arena.
Despite setting both Hawkins Arena and University Center records of 94 field goals attempted and 55 total rebounds, Mercer (20-12) was out-done by McNeese State's (19-14) 31-for-38 performance from the free throw line.
Junior Kendra Grant led the way for the Bears with a career-best 27 points on a career-high 31 field goals attempted. Sophomore Teanna Robinson chipped in offensively as well with six points, 13 rebounds and a block in the contest.
Both sides started the game clicking on all cylinders offensively before an old-fashion three-point play by senior Ashlyn Baggett gave McNeese State an early 18-15 lead with 12:52 left in the first half.
The Cowgirls built up their lead to as large as six points before Mercer responded with a 6-0 run of its own. Back-to-back put-back lay-ins by Robinson brought the Bears back even at 21-21 with 8:06 remaining in the first stanza.
The game would either stay tied or sway into a one possession game until the final minutes of the first half when the visitors made a late push. McNeese State ended the period on an 8-2 run, capped by a mid-range jumper by senior Caitlyn Baggett, to take a 39-35 lead going into the locker room.
The Bears started the second half strong, however, riding the hot shooting of Grant. The Mercer two-guard scored seven-straight points to pull the home team within two, at 44-42, with 17:22 left in the second half.
Mercer kept chipping away at the McNeese State lead until a spark off the bench by junior Kate Alemann pushed the home team in front. The Auckland, New Zealand native scored four-straight points to give the Bears a 50-49 lead with 11:16 remaining in the second half.
Grant continued her hot shooting in a desperate attempt to keep the Bears in the game. The Macon, Ga. product connected on a pair of jumpers on back-to-back possession to keep Mercer within striking distance, trailing just 60-58, with 4:23 minutes left in the game.
McNeese State would not give in, however, connecting on 16-straight attempts from the free throw line over the final four minutes of the contest to put the game out of reach and secure the road win.
The 82 points registered by McNeese State are the fifth-most allowed by Mercer in a single-game this season.
Caitlyn Baggett led the Cowgirls with 38 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field and a 17-for-17 performance from the free throw line in the win.
Thursday night's contest was the final game in the Orange and Black for seniors Sharmesia Smith, Ry'van Buchanan and Alex Phillips. The trio helped Mercer to its first 20-win season since 1991-92 and its first appearance in a nationally sponsored postseason tournament since 1985.