It’s tough enough for the Postseason NIT to receive some national exposure given the love for and importance of the NCAA tournament.
But Bob Hoffman’s Mercer Bears completed a championship run that went ignored by much of the country since they were playing in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Travis Smith scored 17 points off the bench and Langston Hall added 16, six rebounds and four assists as the Bears held off Utah State 70-67 to win the CIT crown.
Kyisean Reed led four Aggies in double figures with 15 points to go along with seven rebounds, but a Brockeith Pane 3-pointer in the final seconds missed the mark.
The win gives Mercer their first title in a national tournament in program history, and it’s safe to say that Hoffman’s Bears took the road less traveled to cap a 27-11 campaign.
Their final three wins all came on the road, with Mercer beating Old Dominion, Fairfield and Utah State. For those first two wins Mercer bussed to Norfolk and went from there to Fairfield…on a bus.
Could this be a building block for either team heading into next season? It’s definitely possible, as in two of the previous three CIT title games one of the participating teams has gone dancing the following season (ODU in 2009 and Iona in 2011).
Three of the four winners of the CIT have done so on the road, with Mercer becoming the third.
In other action Pittsburgh beat Washington State 57-53 without the services of guard Ashton Gibbs to force a deciding Game 3 in the CBI.