LAKELAND, FL - Jirah Ards scored a season-high 18 points to lead four players in double figures as Florida Southern College women's basketball overcame a bevy of injuries to pick up a 70-61 win over visiting Lewis on Saturday at Jenkins Field House. The Moccasins (8-3) dressed just eight players for the game but were able to use a stifling defensive effort in the third quarter to erase a three-point halftime deficit and complete the comeback against the Flyers (7-4).
The Mocs are off until the new year when they jump back into Sunshine State Conference action at Florida Tech on Jan. 3. Florida Southern returns home on Jan. 6 against Lynn and will play five home games in January.
HOW IT HAPPENED
• Florida Southern jumped out to an early three-point lead (11-8), but Lewis rallied to tie things at 16-16 with 1:49 to go in the first quarter and scored with 26 seconds to go in the opening period to take an 18-16 lead into the second quarter. The Flyers shot 63.6 percent (7-of-11) from the floor in the first 10 minutes of action as Jessica Kelliher, who was averaging 24.7 points per game entering the contest, got off to a fast start with 11 first-quarter points.
• In the second quarter, the teams traded jabs until late in the period, when Lewis used an 8-3 run to close out the half and take a 35-32 lead into the locker room at the half. The Mocs were able to hold the Flyers to just 37.5 percent (6-of-16) from the floor in the second quarter but were outscored a combined 7-0 at the free-throw and three-point lines as Lewis was able to stay ahead.
• The third quarter was when Florida Southern made its move. The Moccasins scored the first four points of the third to grab a 36-35 lead on Ards' layup with 8:24 on the clock. The Mocs locked things down defensively in the third, allowing just eight points and scoring 19 of their own. The Flyers connected on just 4-of-12 from the floor in the third quarter and were outscored 9-0 at the charity stripe as Florida Southern snagged a 52-43 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
• Lewis would battle back to get within a single point (58-57) after starting the final period on a 15-5 run, but the Mocs never surrendered the lead and got clutch baskets and free throws down the stretch to seal the victory. After the Flyers cut the deficit to one, the Moccasins held Lewis scoreless for more than two minutes as they built a 63-58 lead and hung on down the stretch.
• Ards went 6-of-12 from the floor while grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out five assists. Anja Fuchs-Robetin notched another double-double, her sixth of the year, with 16 points and 11 boards. Camille Giardina added 13 points, while Mercedez Claybrone scored 12. The Moccasins shot 45.5 percent (25-of-55) from the floor and knocked down 17-of-22 free-throw attempts. Lewis was led by Kelliher's game-high 20 points, although she was limited to just nine over the final three quarters, and had just one other player score in double figures (Rachel Hinders - 10).
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
• Florida Southern improved to 2-0 all-time against Lewis. Saturday's game marked the first meeting between the teams in Lakeland, as the only other meeting came in Romeoville, IL on Nov. 16, 2009. The game marked the 100th game at Florida Southern for head coach Betsy Harris, who improved to 67-33 in three-plus seasons with the Moccasins.
• Elsa Landberg made her season debut less than a year after season-ending knee surgery last year. She played 10 minutes off the bench and scored two points. Rebekah Green made her collegiate debut for the Mocs on Saturday after being added to the roster on Friday afternoon. Green scored two points in 10 minutes of action. Jensen Blassage did not play on Saturday due to an upper-body injury, it was the first time since Nov. 14, 2015, that Blassage did not play, a stretch of 71-straight games.
• The Moccasins finished with a 36-33 edge in rebounds and outscored the Flyers 11-5 in second-chance points. Both teams connected on just three, three-pointers each and both squads finished with 11 assists and 32 points in the paint.
• Florida Southern will take a lengthy holiday break as it does not return to action until Jan. 3 at Florida Tech. The Moccasins return home to face Lynn on Jan. 6 and will play five home games in January.