The Mercer women's basketball team used a season-high 20 points from junior guard Briana Williams as the Bears cruised by North Florida 62-48 in their Atlantic Sun Conference opener Thursday evening in Hawkins Arena.
Mercer (8-4, 1-0 A-Sun) runs its winning streak to four games with the victory, while the Ospreys (4-8, 0-1 A-Sun) drop their conference opener and a chance for their third straight win.
"I thought we had a really good start to our first conference game," said head coach Susie Gardner. "We came out focused and got the lead to 17 in the first half. I thought we played about 32 minutes of really good basketball so I was pleased with our effort from top to bottom."
After opening the game trading baskets for the first four minutes, Mercer caught fire from the field and used an 18-3 run to race out to a 24-7 advantage. Kendra Grant capped the spurt with a jumper at the 6:25 mark and Bears clamped down on defense and held the Ospreys scoreless for nearly six minutes during the run.
North Florida finally came to life over the final five minutes of the opening half and used a 13-4 run of its own to cut the Mercer lead to 28-20 heading to intermission.
The Bears quickly established themselves again in the opening minutes of the second half, as Briana Williams scored five straight points and Alicia Williams added a breakaway layup to fuel a 7-1 run and a 35-21 Mercer lead with 17:04 remaining in the contest.
The Ospreys continued to hang around over the final minutes, cutting the lead to nine points on three different occasions, but the Bears had answer each time and cruised to the 14-point victory.
Mercer shot 47-percent from the field and won the battle on the glass, outrebounding the Ospreys 43-38. Both squads recorded a dozen second-chance points, but the Bears made UNF pay in transition with 14 fast break points.
While Briana Williams led all scorers with 20 points, Alicia Williams added 16 points and Precious Bridges tallied 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting from the field. Kate Alemann paced the Bears on the boards with 10 rebounds, including six on the offensive end.
The Bears go right back to work Saturday, welcoming Jacksonville to town for another Atlantic Sun Conference contest. Tip-off against the Dolphins is set for 2 p.m. in Hawkins Arena.