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


source: AP
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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.”

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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.”

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.