By Carey Phillips
Western Carolina’s women’s basketball team picked up its first Southern Conference win in two seasons Saturday by turning back Mercer 51-40 at the Ramsey Center.
It was WCU’s first league victory since Feb. 8, 2018 and first conference win at home since Feb. 25, 2017.
Lauren LaPlant scored 12 points for the Lady Cats (4-18, 1-6). Andrea Martin-Ruiz added 11, and Tembre Moates had 10.
Shannon Titus was the Lady Bears’ top performer with nine points and 13 rebounds.
Western led from the first basket. Moates scored four in a game-opening 11-2 run, capped by Jewell Smalls’ three-pointer with 5:29 on the clock.
WCU led 15-8 after the first quarter.
The halftime margin was 24-14 after Martin-Ruiz made a free throw with three seconds to go.
Alyssa Walker scored all seven of her points in a 10-1 spurt building the lead to 38-23 with 3:19 to play in the third period, which ended with Western on top 43-38.
Mercer came no closer than 10 the rest of the way.
WCU shot 45.8 percent from the floor and held the Lady Bears to 29.5 percent.
Smalls’ 15 rebounds helped the Lady Cats control the glass 40-32.
Western committed 22 turnovers, and Mercer had 13.
Completing the WCU scoring were Smalls with eight and Judith Martin-Ruiz with three.