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Mercer falls to Clemson despite strong fourth quarter

The Bears cut a 15-point deficit to three over the last five minutes.

MACON, Ga. — The Mercer Bears fell to 3-8 after falling 65-61 to ACC opponent, Clemson, on Sunday in Hawkins Arena.

It was an interesting match-up for the coaching battle alone, as Mercer head coach Susie Gardner faced off against Clemson's Amanda Butler. Both coaches are alumnae of Mt. Juliet High School in Tennessee. Butler then served under Gardner during her first head coaching stint at Austin Peay in 1996. Gardner then helped out on Butler's staff at her alma mater, Florida in 2007.

Clemson jumped out to a quick 12-0 lead in the first quarter over the first four minutes of the game. Mercer stormed back with their own 9-0 run but the half would end with Clemson up six. The Bears were able to hang around after 10 first half points from Jaron Dougherty and ended the half down 33-28. Dougherty and Shannon Titus kept the Bears in the game. Titus put up a 11 point, 14 rebound double-double and Dougherty ended the game with 22 points.

Dougherty pointed to Gardner's offense for her recent hot hand.

"I credit my teammates and my coaches, they have some great plays. We're looking for the person to put the ball in the hole and the person who has the open shot so it's just team basketball," she said.

Clemson's size ultimately became a problem for Mercer in the third quarter. The Tigers put up eight points in the paint and out-rebounded the Bears 14-7 to extend their halftime lead to 15 points. 

A furious run by the Bears came in the fourth quarter. Over the last 5:00 minutes the Bears outscored Clemson 18-9 on the strength of three Tia Benvenuti three-pointers and seven points from Amoria Neal-Tysor. 

"I think at the end we decided the game's not over. We can fight, we can win, and we gave it our all at the end," Titus said.

Mercer was able to cut the lead to three, but ultimately could not overcome the deficit.

"Right now, we don't really have that go-to player that we've had for the last five years that wants the ball in crunch time," Gardner said postgame. "There are some positives. With this team all year we've had some down moments and we've had some high moments, you know? We've just got to have more consistency from all players."

The Bears will face another Power Five opponent on Tuesday against Florida in Gainesville.

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