MACON, Ga. – Mercer sophomore Briana Williams broke Mercer's all-time single-game scoring record on Saturday with a remarkable 54-point effort, lifting the women's basketball team to an 87-71 victory over USC Upstate at the University Center.
Mercer snapped its 13-game losing streak and moved to 4-20 (2-11 A-Sun) while Upstate suffered its second-straight loss and fell to 6-17 (6-6 A- Sun).
With 51 points and a tie for the program's single-game record already to her credit, Williams brought the ball up the court as the clock dwindled under 30 seconds. Knowing what was at stake, Mercer head coach Susie Gardner let Williams call her own play.
"My assistants told me not to tell her how close she was to the record," Gardner said. "As it got towards the end I could see she was fatigued, so I told her. I felt like if I let her know she could turn it on. On the final possession we had to shoot because of the shot clock, so I let her call her own play and she came up with a huge shot."
Williams canned the subsequent three-pointer, solidifying her spot in the record book with just 15 seconds left in the game. Her fifth three pointer of the game brought the UC crowd to its feet and gave Mercer its largest margin of victory since topping Jacksonville 63-46 on February 20, 2010.
"I heard it over the speakers that I tied the record," Williams said. "I really wasn't looking to score on the final possession, but when I came down the defender gave me some space so I let it fly."
Williams' performance broke the 20-year-old mark set by Andrea Congreaves, who held the record with a pair of 51-point games in 1992. Congreaves scored 51 against Florida A&M twice that season on January 11, 1992 and February 5, 1992. Williams' effort was also an Atlantic Sun record.
"It feels great to have set that record," Williams said. "I wasn't expecting to break a record today, I just wanted to play my best."
Williams' 54 points established the highest single-game output for a men's or women's player in the University Center's eight-year history. Williams broke her own UC record of 41 points, set in an 80-78 overtime loss to Jacksonville on January 24, 2011. James Florence owns the men's record of 39 points - set versus Jacksonville on Feb. 16, 2007.
Her 54 points were just six shy of the all-time NCAA Division I record, set by Cindy Brown of Long Beach State on February 16, 1987.
Williams finished the game 16-of-25 from the field and 17-of-21 from the free throw line. Her 17 free throws also broke a Mercer record of 16 held by Congreaves and Laura Sharp. Congreaves had 16 free throws on January 3, 1993 and Sharp had 16 free throws on December 1, 1984.
In the first half, Upstate held a slim 21-20 advantage before Mercer rattled off 16 unanswered points, nine of which scored by Williams. When the half came to an end, the hosts enjoyed a 48-25 lead.
Williams outscored Upstate single-handedly in the first half, booking 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting in the period.
After taking a 23-point lead into the dressing room, Mercer led by double digits the entirety of the second stanza. Upstate was able to cut their deficit to 13 late in the second half but never threatened Mercer's bid for victory.
Mercer looks to take two straight when it returns to action at Kennesaw State on February 11. Game time at the KSU Convocation Center is scheduled for 5 p.m.