The Gamecocks had “a multitude of chances to blow the lid off” their game with Mercer but couldn’t handle the Bears’ press in the closing minutes and suffered their sixth straight loss 60-54.
They roared back from a halftime deficit to open a 12-point lead, but they went scoreless over the final 2:51 under Mercer’s full-court press. The Gamecocks had a five-point lead at the time, then went 0 for 5 from the field with three of their 20 turnovers and a missed free throw the rest of the game.
“This team just hasn’t come to the realization yet that’s it OK for them to win,” Pietri said. “It’s late in the game, it’s time to win it, and the kids in this program just don’t have the mentality yet that it’s OK for us to win.
“They have been willing to compete. We have competed. We just haven’t won. Breaking that mentality is our chore, our task, and it’s something we’ll keep working on.”
The Gamecocks (2-8) went the last 5:04 of the first half without a field goal, but gathered themselves at the break. They opened the second half with a 17-0 run to take a 40-28 lead. Destany McLin and Candace Morton combined for 15 points in the run that saw JSU go 8 for 13 from the field and Mercer 0 for 10.
The Bears (4-4), with four primary players back from a team that won 21 games a year ago, started chipping away and eventually took the lead for good with 1:17 to play. They scored their last eight points from the foul line, finishing 14 of 18 for the game; JSU was 8 of 11 — a six-point difference.
“These kids are not afraid to fight,” Pietri said. “In the second half we came out with the right energy. In the first four minutes we were able to make all the plays. In the last four minutes we weren’t.”
McLin led the Gamecocks with 17 points. Morton had 14. Miranda Cantrell had 12 points and 10 rebounds, her second straight double-double and fifth of the season.
Mercer put four scorers in double figures, led by Kendra Grant’s 17.
“We’ve been in the same predicament for a while now; we’re trying our hardest to get out of it,” McLin said. “I’ll put it this way: Once we do start winning and we get the feel for it, I guarantee we’ll continue to do it.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.