RALEIGH, N.C. — Senior-laden Mercer went into Duke’s backyard and pulled off the biggest upset of the NCAA tournament so far Friday, beating the Blue Devils 78-71 and likely ending Jabari Parker’s short college career.
The 14th-seeded Bears, from the same league that produced last year’s tournament darlings “Dunk City” of Florida Gulf Coast, came back from five points down in the last 4:52 as Duke’s offense collapsed.
Jakob Gollon scored 20 points and Daniel Coursey scored 17, helping the Bears overcome a season-high 15 3-pointers from Duke.
Mercer qualified for the tournament by winning the Atlantic Sun conference championship over Florida Gulf Coast. A year earlier, the Bears lost that game and watched FGCU advance to the Sweet 16.
Mercer scored 11 straight points during the late 20-5 run that clinched the biggest victory in school history. It’s the second one-and-done in three years for the third-seeded Blue Devils.
Quinn Cook scored 23 points and Rasheed Sulaimon added 20.
But the Blue Devils’ defense — an uncharacteristic weakness all season — did them in again while all those Mercer seniors picked Duke apart down the stretch.
Duke went up 63-58 with 4:52 left after Parker converted a three-point play and Tyler Thornton hit three free throws.
Duke didn’t score again until the final minute.
Coursey countered by rattling in a jumper in the lane, and after two empty possessions for Duke, some slick ball rotation by Mercer set up an open 3 from Anthony White Jr. that tied it at 63 with 2½ minutes left.
Duke star Rodney Hood picked up his fourth foul on the Bears’ next possession and Gollon hit two free throws to put Mercer ahead for good.
By that point, Duke — in the midst of an untimely run of empty possessions — could do nothing right. Parker missed a 3-pointer in traffic before Hood was called for walking, leading White to give a fist-pump to the Mercer fans who stood all day.
The Bears hit 12 of 14 free throws in the final 2 minutes and finished 23 of 28 from the line. Gollon was 6 for 6 during that late span, and his two with 5 seconds left put the Bears up 78-68 before Cook hit a meaningless 3 with 0.2 seconds remaining.
White finished with 13 points, and A-Sun player of the year Langston Hall and Ike Nwamu added 11 apiece for Mercer — which watched the last year’s Sweet 16 run by “Dunk City” with a mixture of pride and envy.
The Bears — not Gulf Coast — were the No. 1 seed in last year’s A-Sun final but were knocked off by Andy Enfield’s high-flying team that went on to upset Georgetown and San Diego State in last year’s tournament.
What Mercer did Friday — sending home one of the sport’s true blue bloods — might be even more impressive because of the sheer volume of big-named talent on Duke’s team.
Mercer has 1,176 wins as a program — or, only 191 more than Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has all by himself.
Parker, one of a long list of high school All-Americans on Coach K’s roster, finished what might have been his final college game with 14 points. Hood — a redshirt sophomore transfer from Mississippi State who also could be headed to the pros — had just six points before fouling out with 1:07 left.
Parker and Hood combined to shoot 6 of 24 for Duke, which went one-and-done for the second time in three years — both times on neutral courts in its home state. Two years ago, C.J. McCollum and 15th-seeded Lehigh sent the Blue Devils packing 75-70 in Greensboro.
RALEIGH, N.C. — Jordan McRae flew in to throw down a dunk on the break and increase Tennessee’s big first-half lead, then came down the floor to scream triumphantly toward the orange-clad fans near the court.
Confident? Check. Enthusiastic? Yep.
Maybe playing in the First Four to get the jitters out wasn’t such a bad thing for these Volunteers after all.
Jarnell Stokes scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to help Tennessee beat Massachusetts 86-67 on Friday in the second round of the NCAA Midwest Regional, earning the program’s most lopsided win in the tournament in seven years.
Now 11th-seeded Tennessee faces 14th-seeded Mercer, which beat No. 3 seed Duke 78-71 on Friday, in the third round on Sunday. The game is a rematch of an NIT game won by Mercer at Tennessee last year.
“We didn’t come into this tournament saying, `OK, if we beat UMass we can play Duke.’ Not at all,” Martin said. “Our guys understand that it’s one game at a time. Anything happens this time of year.”
McRae added 21 points for the Volunteers (23-12), who had little trouble with the sixth-seeded Minutemen (24-9) in a surprisingly one-sided performance. Tennessee shot 54 percent from the field, led by 20 points before halftime and used another strong defensive performance to shut down UMass.
“We just wanted to keep our foot on the gas the whole time,” McRae said.
With that mentality, coach Cuonzo Martin’s club is building momentum at the right time of the season.
“They understand and I guess they realize when you defend at the level we’re capable of defending at, these are the results behind it,” Martin said. “They’ve really bought into it and embraced the fact that we can defend the way we defend because you can still score the ball, but scoring is a lot better when you can defend like this.
“They’re just playing with confidence as a team. Everybody understands their role and just wants to win as a family.”
The Volunteers had missed the past two tournaments and squeaked into this year’s field of 68, earning a trip to Dayton, Ohio to face Iowa in the First Four. But they controlled the boards and dominated the overtime to beat the Hawkeyes 78-65 in the program’s first NCAA game since Bruce Pearl’s final game as coach in 2011.
Martin had said he thought the win helped his Vols get the jitters out — they didn’t score until 6 minutes into that one — while also giving them a taste of tournament intensity by fighting through a tough game.
He was right. Tennessee protected the ball against UMass’ pressure by committing three first-half turnovers, while Stokes and McRae led an offense that shot 52 percent in the first half and kept coming up with press-breaking answers to turn away every spurt.
“The Iowa game, we were just getting our feet wet, first time being here,” said Jeronne Maymon, who had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Tennessee. “Then it was time to get down to playing basketball.”
This was Tennessee’s biggest margin of victory in an NCAA game since beating Long Beach State 121-86 in the 2007 first round, which came near the start of a six-year run of tournament appearances under Pearl.
Stokes’ 14 rebounds tied the school record for an NCAA tournament game, equaling the mark set by Isiah Victor in 1999 and Reggie Johnson in 1980. Throw in Maymon’s performance, and it marked the first time the Vols had multiple double-doubles in an NCAA game since 1977.
Chaz Williams and Maxie Esho scored 12 points each for UMass in its first NCAA appearance since 1998. But the Minutemen fell behind by double figures early, trailed by 19 at halftime and never got closer than 10 again.
“We had a couple of great practices the past couple of days, and I felt like we were going to come out great,” Williams said. “But once get under these lights and the crowd starts roaring, you start second-guessing.”
UMass came in averaging 76 points and shooting 46 percent, but finished well short of those numbers with much of its production coming after the Vols had seized control. Tennessee led 38-18 on McRae’s first-half dunk and pushed the lead to 24 points late.
“This don’t even seem real right now,” said sophomore Derrick Gordon, the only UMass player to have tournament experience from his previous stop at Western Kentucky. “It’s just a loss that just like, `Man, am I still sleeping?’ Reality sets in, like we really just lost and it wasn’t a loss by like four points. It was a loss by double digits.”
It was a frustrating finish for the Minutemen under coach Derek Kellogg, who was a player during Massachusetts’ 1990s surge under John Calipari. He started on teams that reached the round of 16 in 1994 and a regional final in 1995 during a run of seven straight NCAA appearances for the program, but his team never gave itself much of a chance to stick around Raleigh for another game.
UMass shot 42 percent and went 3 for 11 from 3-point range.
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