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No. 14 Mercer shocks No. 3 Duke in Round of 64

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source: AP
AP Photo

Down goes Duke.

Jakob Gollob led five players in double figures with 18 points and No. 14 Mercer held Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker to a combined 6-for-24 shooting from the floor as the Bears handed the Blue Devils their second shocking Round of 64 upset in three years, 76-68. Duke lost to No. 15 Lehigh in the opening round as a No. 2 seed in 2012.

And with that, the celebration was on.

“You’re never too old to celebrate,” a fired up Bob Hoffman, Mercer’s head coach, told Rachel Nichols on CBS after the game. “Unbelievable what theses dudes believe about each other and they can accomplish. That’s the kind of heart it takes, and it’s amazing what they’ve done the last three years, believing at the highest level that they can accomplish what they did today.”

MORE: Lehigh, FGCU send regardsMercer guard can dance | Duke’s worst tourney losses

The Bears shot 55.6% from the floor, taking full advantage of the issues that Duke has had defensively all season long. They attacked Hood and Parker in pick-and-roll actions, conceding offensive rebounds in exchange for taking away Duke’s transition game.

More important, however, was the job that the Bears did defensively. Hoffman did his homework. The way to beat Duke is to play a zone, force them to become a jump-shooting team and dare them to try and cram the ball into the paint. The Blue Devils hit 15 threes and they grabbed 16 offensive rebound, but as a team they shot just 35.5% from the field and got nothing out of their two stars. Parker didn’t touches in the post and Duke didn’t get the ball into the high post nearly enough. It was a constant theme this season — the same thing happened against Clemson, Notre Dame, Wake Forest and North Carolina — and it came back to bite the Blue Devils at the wrong time.

That said, this is a very good, and very motivated, Mercer team. They beat both Seton Hall and Ole Miss this season, losing by three at Texas and hanging with Oklahoma in Norman. They have seven seniors that had to sit home and watch the team that they beat out for last season’s Atlantic Sun regular season title, Florida-Gulf Coast, make a run to the Sweet 16.

You don’t think that that had been stewing inside them all offseason?

You don’t think that Hoffman reminded them of that fact in every single practice?

It’s not fun watching a team you believe you’re better than become a global phenomenon. Mercer wanted their moment in the sun, and they got it.

They’re advance to fact the winner of this afternoon’s game between No. 6 UMass and No. 11 Tennessee, two teams that the Bears are well-equipped to beat.

Just how far can Mercer go?

“With these guys?” Hoffman said. “I don’t know who’s beating us.”

BUBBLE BANTER: Key Atlantic 10, Big East bubble games

Kelan Martin, Kyle Alexander
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This post will be updated throughout the night.

Butler (KenPom: 41, RPI; 67) at Seton Hall (KenPom: 31, RPI: 37), 6:30 p.m.
LSU (KenPom: 53, RPI: 76) at South Carolina (KenPom: 45, RPI: 28), 7:00 p.m.
Nebraska at Wisconsin (KenPom: 51, RPI: 62), 7:00 p.m.
Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 48, RPI: 30) at George Washington (KenPom: 71, RPI: 34), 7:00 p.m.
Missouri at Vanderbilt (KenPom: 35, RPI: 58), 9:00 p.m.
No. 14 Iowa State at Texas Tech (KenPom: 59, RPI: 51), 9:00 p.m.
Michigan (KenPom: 46, RPI: 56) at Minnesota, 9:00 p.m.
Washington (KenPom: 80, RPI: 57) at Utah (KenPom: 44, RPI: 16), 9:00 p.m.
San Diego State (KenPom: 65, RPI: 47) at Fresno State, 11:00 p.m.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Ben Simmons, LSU get tested at South Carolina; more important bubble matchups

FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2015, file photo, LSU forward Ben Simmons (25) drives downcourt as teammate Antonio Blakeney (2) follows in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina State in New York. For all of his gaudy numbers, Simmons is still trying to figure out the best way to put the Tigers in position to win. And now the schedule gets harder, starting with Tuesday night's, Dec. 29, 2015, tilt against Wake Forest, followed by the opening of Southeastern Conference play against Vanderbilt and No. 10 Kentucky. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: LSU at South Carolina, 7:00 p.m.

LSU attempts to stay atop the SEC standings when they travel on the road to face South Carolina. The Gamecocks have been very tough at home this season and they’re trying to form a potential four-way tie in the conference standings if they’re able to win this one (and Texas A&M wins tonight). It will be intriguing to see how Ben Simmons fares against South Carolina’s stingy defense.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: Saint Joseph’s at George Washington, 7:00 p.m.

An important game in the Atlantic 10 as Saint Joseph’s heads to the Smith Center to play surging George Washington. The Colonels have won three straight games as they try to stay with VCU and Dayton and make a move to tie the Hawks in the league standings. CBT’s Rob Dauster will be in the building for this one, so make sure to follow him on Twitter for updates.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. No. 21 Baylor will have a tough one in the Big 12 when they go on the road at Kansas State. The Wildcats just knocked off Oklahoma and the Octagon of Doom is a very tough place to play, even if Kansas State is struggling in the standings.
  2. No. 16 SMU will try to stay in the lead in the American as they host Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane could really use a road win like this for its postseason chances.
  3. An intriguing Pac-12 contest tips as Washington heads to Utah. The Pac-12 standings are a mess right now, but these two teams still have a chance to make one final move for the regular season title if they start building momentum now.
  4. In the SEC, Alabama hosts No. 15 Texas A&M, a team that has lost three of its last four games. The Aggies will be favored in this road contest, but this one could be interesting because of Avery Johnson’s unique connection to Texas A&M. Avery Johnson Jr., a transfer guard sitting out this season at Alabama, played for the Aggies last season, so he could have some useful tips for his dad on slowing down Texas A&M’s potent offense.
  5. No. 20 Providence will be looking for revenge when they head to Milwaukee to face Marquette. The Golden Eagles currently sit eighth in the Big East standings, but they did win on the road by a point over the Friars earlier this season.