Georgia beat the No. 13 seed Mercer Saturday afternoon in front of an electric crowd. The No. 4 seed Bulldogs beat the Bears 68-63 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Georgia’s win marked the first tournament win under head coach Joni Taylor.
The Bulldogs secured its second victory over Mercer, sweeping the Bears in 2017-18. During the first matchup between the two teams, Georgia defeated Mercer 72-54 on Nov. 19, 2017.
I think it was really special to have Georgia and Mercer play each other – two in-state teams who had incredible seasons,” Taylor said. “Special moment for everyone, and we’re fortunate to come out on top. Mercer’s got a really good team; they battled and they fought really hard. And I was proud of our girls for how they answered that challenge.”
Mackenzie Engram and Caliya Robinson did what they do best, score points and put their teammates in the best situations possible. The two combined for 44 points, 26 rebounds and eight assists.
I think it goes to the chemistry, I think that it’s easy for us to work together,” Robinson said. “I think it plays well in the game, which helps us a lot.”
Mercer came out hot in the opening quarter with a 19-18 lead. Keke Calloway led the Bears with three 3-pointers that set the tone in the first quarter. Georgia exploited the Bears inside with 14 and 10 points from Robinson and Engram. The pair went 12-15 shooting in the first half to give the Bulldogs a 34-31 lead at halftime.
During the second half, Que Morrison kicked her scoring into gear. She steadied the Bulldogs in the first half with five rebounds and four assists, but only attempted two shots. Morrison exploded for eight points in the third quarter to pace Georgia to a 52-48 lead before the final quarter.
Georgia held off a Bears comeback that cut it to 56-55 with 3:23 left to play. Gabby Connally drilled a 3-pointer and sank two clutch free throws to help secure a 68-63 victory.
It’s definitely special to be in the NCAA Tournament and play on our home floor,” Engram said. “Walking up to the free throw line, I just enjoyed the moment. That’s kind of been our message this week: Enjoy where we are, enjoy what we’ve done. I just kind of took a look around and knew this is it. This is my last run, and to be able to put the game with my free throws that I finally started making, it was a really good feeling.”
The 4th-seeded Bulldogs advance to face 5th-seeded Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday night at 7 p.m. Duke defeated 12-seeded Belmont 72-58 in the earlier game of the Athens Regional first-round session. The game will broadcast on ESPN2.