The Duke Blue Devils and the Mercer Bears squared off in a battle of the three seed versus the fourteen seed. Early on, both teams struggled on the offensive end but Duke had the advantage as Rasheed Sulaimon connected on two threes from the corner. Mental mistakes held the Bears back even though they were shooting better from the field than the Blue Devils.
Duke fell into a scoring funk and in turn started fouling on the defensive end, turning the ball over as well. Mercer took advantage of Duke’s scoring drought as Langston Hall was fouled on a three-point attempt and connected on all three free throws, giving the Bears a 12-9 lead. Quinn Cook put an end to Duke’s drought with a three of his own and then picked up a steal, laying it in on the fast-break to regain the lead for the Blue Devils.
Mercer was hanging around with Duke for the majority of the first half, but the three-ball was falling for Duke. The Blue Devils nailed seven triples in the first twelve minutes of the game, as 21 of their 26 points came from beyond-the-arc. Daniel Coursey was keeping Mercer in the game but once Cook, Sulaimon, and Hood connected on four triples for Duke, the Blue Devils began to go on a run.
Duke remained steadily ahead of Mercer as the first half came winding down to an end. Then a 7-0 run from the Bears gave Mercer the lead with less than a minute remaining in the first half. A Jabari Parker with 12 seconds left gave Duke a 35-34 lead that they would take into halftime.
Mercer ended the half shooting 52.4% from the field and they held the Blue Devils to just 35.3% shooting. However, Duke had the distinct advantage on the glass with 21 rebounds to Mercer’s 12, and 11 offensive rebounds to Mercer’s one.
The boys from Macon came out of the break with a purpose! Mercer upped the pressure on defense forcing turnovers for Duke and took advantage of the Blue Devils’s mistakes with a 7-0 run. Jabari Parker picked up two fouls in the first four minutes of the second half, giving him his second and third fouls of the game, forcing him to head to the bench with Mercer on top 43-40.
Duke then returned the favor going on an 8-0 run on a Tyler Thornton three, pair of free throws from Sulaimon, and a three from Cook. The Blue Devils regained their lead but Mercer continued to hang tough, maintaining their pressure on both ends of the floor.
With less than five minutes remaining in the second round contest, the Blue Devils and Bears were in a tight battle. Duke continued to rely heavily on three-ball whereas Mercer continued to attack Duke’s weak interior defense inside. The Blue Devils were only up three with 3:10 left even with 34-22 advantage on the glass, and a 16-3 advantage on the offensive glass. Daniel Coursey and Jakob Gallon were making big plays for the Bears down the stretch being responsible for Mercer’s excellent play even with their star player, Langston Hall, quiet in the second half.
With 2:33 left, Anthony White Jr. made a big three for Mercer to tie the ball game up at 63. It was all Mercer from there. The Bears ended the game on a 20-8 run, shocking the Duke Blue Devils 78-71.
Jakob Gallon, Daniel Coursey, Langston Hall, Anthony White Jr., and Ike Nwamu all had double figures for the Bears. Mercer shot 57% from the field and connected on 23 of 28 free throw attempts.
The Diaper Dandy (Jabari Parker) and Stunning Sophomore (Rodney Hood) went 6 of 24 from the field (25%) and had nine turnovers along with seven turnovers.
Even though Duke had 35-27 edge on the glass along with 16 offensive rebounds, it was not enough as the Mercer Bears pull off the upset, sending Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils home early.
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