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Mercer shocks No. 3 seed Duke, 78-71, in NCAA tourney opener

  • Mercer forward Jakob Gollon (20) and Mercer guard Langston Hall (21) celebrate after the second half of an NCAA college basketball second-round game against Duke, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Raleigh, N.C. Mercer won 78-71. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

    Mercer forward Jakob Gollon (20) and Mercer guard Langston Hall (21) celebrate after the second half of an NCAA college basketball second-round game against Duke, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Raleigh, N.C. Mercer won 78-71. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

  • Mercer forward Jakob Gollon (20) and Mercer guard Langston Hall (21) celebrate after the second half of an NCAA college basketball second-round game against Duke, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Raleigh, N.C. Mercer won 78-71. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

    Mercer forward Jakob Gollon (20) and Mercer guard Langston Hall (21) celebrate after the second half of an NCAA college basketball second-round game against Duke, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Raleigh, N.C. Mercer won 78-71. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

  • Mercer forward Jakob Gollon (20) and Mercer guard Langston Hall (21) celebrate after the second half of an NCAA college basketball second-round game against Duke, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Raleigh, N.C. Mercer won 78-71. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
  • Mercer forward Jakob Gollon (20) and Mercer guard Langston Hall (21) celebrate after the second half of an NCAA college basketball second-round game against Duke, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Raleigh, N.C. Mercer won 78-71. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Dunk City is long gone. Make way for the next bunch of bracket busters from the little-known Atlantic Sun Conference: Mercer.

The 8,300-student school from Macon, Ga., delivered the biggest shocker in an already topsy-turvy NCAA tournament yesterday, going into Duke’s backyard and knocking off the No. 3 seed Blue Devils, 78-71.

“This,” Atlantic Sun player of the year Langston Hall said, “is what March Madness is all about.”

The 14th-seeded Bears – with a starting lineup of five seniors – came back from five points down in the last 4:52 as Duke’s offense collapsed.

They sent home one of the true blue-blood programs, coached by Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski and starring freshman Jabari Parker, sure to be one of the top NBA picks this year. Mercer is coached by former Oklahoma Baptist player Bob Hoffman, who has banged around the coaching ranks from women’s teams to the American Basketball Association to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA Developmental League.

Next up: 11th-seeded Tennessee, which upset sixth-seeded Massachusetts, 86-67, tomorrow in the third round.

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 its first NCAA tournament since 1985 by winning the Atlantic Sun conference championship over Florida Gulf Coast, nicknamed “Dunk City” for the team’s above-the-rim offense. A year earlier, the Bears lost that game and watched FGCU advance to the Sweet 16.

“When they were going on their run, we were sitting at home thinking, ‘Man, that could have been us,’ ” Anthony White Jr. said.

Now it is.

Mercer scored 11 straight points during the late 20-5 run that clinched the biggest victory in school history and sent the Blue Devils to their second first-game exit in three years.

Quinn Cook scored 23 points and Rasheed Sulaimon added 20 for Duke.

But their defense – an uncharacteristic weakness all season – did them in again while all those Mercer seniors simply got any shot they wanted. The Bears shot 56 percent – 58 percent in the second half.

“They’re a team that’s been together a long time,” Duke forward Rodney Hood said. “They sliced us up. There’s no other way to put it.”

Duke went up 63-58 with 4:52 left after Parker converted a three-point play and Tyler Thornton hit three free throws.

The Blue Devils didn’t score again until the final minute.

“I don’t know if we panicked,” senior Andre Dawkins said, “but we didn’t do the things we needed to do.”

Like score. Or defend.

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 White’s open 3 that tied it at 63.

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 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 those noisy Mercer fans who stood all day.

The Bears hit 12 of 14 free throws in the final two minutes to seal it.

WICHITA STATE 64, CAL POLY 37

Cleananthony Early had 23 points and unbeaten Wichita State faced no resistance from Cal Poly, going to 35-0 for the best start in NCAA history with a rout of Cal Poly.

The Shockers dominated from the tip-off against the only team with a sub-.500 record in the tournament. With the exception of Early, most of the glaring numbers were on defense. The losers managed 13 points in the first half and shot 21 percent.

Malik Love had nine points for Cal Poly (14-20), which won the Big West tournament as the No. 7 seed and beat Texas Southern in First Four game before being held to a season low for points. Chris Eversley, the Big West tourney MVP and coming off a 19-point game, was held to six points on 2-for-14 shooting.

TENNESSEE 86, MASSACHUSETTS 67

Jarnell Stokes scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead Tennessee.

Jordan McRae added 21 points for the Volunteers (23-12), the No. 11 seed in the Midwest Regional. Tennessee had little trouble with the sixth-seeded Minutemen (24-9), shooting 54 percent from the field and handling UMass’s fullcourt pressure in a surprisingly one-sided performance that included another solid defensive showing.

The Vols are in the NCAAs for the first time in three seasons, starting with a First Four overtime win against Iowa.

Chaz Williams and Maxie Esho scored 12 points each for UMass in its first NCAA appearance since 1998. The Minutemen fell behind by double figures early, trailed by 20 points before halftime and never got closer than 10 again.

SOUTH REGIONAL

STANFORD 58, NEW MEXICO 53

Chasson Randle scored 23 points and Stanford made an impression in its first NCAA appearance since 2008.

The 10th-seeded Cardinal (22-12) built an early 16-point lead then held on after No. 7 seed New Mexico rallied to tie it midway through the second half. They got four crucial free throws from reserve Robbie Lemons and Randle in the final half-minute after New Mexico had cut the deficit to two points.

Cameron Bairstow had 24 points and eight rebounds but the Lobos (27-7) got off-days from their other top threats. Kendall Williams and Alex Kirk, who together average 30 points, combined for just six.

KANSAS 80, EASTERN KENTUCKY 69

Andrew Wiggins scored 19 points, Jamari Traylor and Perry Ellis had double-doubles and second-seeded Kansas pulled away down the stretch to beat pesky Eastern Kentucky.

Traylor finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds, and Ellis had 14 points and 13 boards for the Jayhawks (25-9), who trailed 56-53 with nine minutes to go before their game-ending charge.

Glenn Cosey hit five 3-pointers and had 17 points for the 15th-seeded Colonels (24-10), the Ohio Valley Conference champions. Tarius Johnson and Eric Stutz finished with 15 points apiece.

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN 77, VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 75, OT

Desmond Haymon scored on an improbable four-point play with 3.6 seconds in regulation and hit a big 3-pointer in overtime to lead No. 12 seed Stephen F. Austin to a win over fifth-seeded Virginia Commonwealth.

VCU (23-10) was firmly in control for most of the second half before SFA (32-2) rallied in the closing seconds.

Haymon hit one of the biggest – and most improbable – shots of what’s already been a wild March, knocking down a 3-pointer and a free throw after being fouled by Jordan Burgess at the end of regulation.

Haymon hit another 3-pointer to put SFA up with 2 minutes left, but VCU had a final shot after Thomas Walkup missed 1 of 2 free throws with 14 seconds left. JeQuan Lewis got an open 3-pointer, but it went long and SFA snared the rebound.

WEST REGIONAL

BAYLOR 74, NEBRASKA 60

Cory Jefferson scored 16 points and sixth-seeded Baylor kept 11th-seeded Nebraska winless in its NCAA tournament history.

The Bears (25-11) have won 11 of 13 after a dismal start in the Big 12, recapturing the kind of momentum that vaulted the Bears to the Elite Eight in 2010 and 2012.

Terran Petteway scored 18 points for Nebraska (19-13), which fell to 0-7 in tournament history.

The Cornhuskers hadn’t played on this stage since 1998 and often looked like it. Frustration boiled over for Big Ten coach of the year Tim Miles, who was ejected with 11 minutes left.

CREIGHTON 76, LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 66

Doug McDermott scored 30 points and third-seeded Creighton got three huge 3-pointers in the second half from Ethan Wragge to beat Louisiana-Lafayette.

McDermott had a double-double by halftime but went scoreless for nearly 14 minutes of the second half, leaving it to Wragge’s long shots to bail out the Bluejays from a potential upset by the Ragin’ Cajuns, who attacked Creighton (27-7) with fearless defense and rebounding.

Elfrid Payton scored 24 points for Sun Belt tournament champion Louisiana-Lafayette (23-12), which led 50-48 before Wragge struck from long range to turn the momentum.

McDermott came into the tournament averaging 26.9 points per game and ranks fifth in NCAA history in career points. He has scored at least 30 points in four of Creighton’s last five games.

ARIZONA 68, WEBER ST. 59

Nick Johnson scored 18 points and Aaron Gordon added 16 as top-seeded Arizona overcame a shaky start and a late run by Weber State.

Arizona (31-4) fell into an eight-point deficit in the opening minutes to give the 16th-seeded Wildcats hope of a monumental upset.

The desert Wildcats tried to squash the dream quickly with two big second-half runs, but Weber State fought its way back from a 21-point deficit to make it close in the second half.

Arizona blocked 12 shots, held Weber State to 30 percent shooting and made 55 percent of its shots.

Davion Berry had 24 points to lead Weber State (19-12) in its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007.

GONZAGA 85, OKLAHOMA ST. 77

Kevin Pangos scored 26 points and Gary Bell Jr. added 17 for eighth-seeded Gonzaga, which beat Marcus Smart and ninth-seeded Oklahoma State.

The Bulldogs (29-6) are in their 16th straight NCAA tournament.

The refs called 61 fouls, and five players fouled out. Pangos made 12 of 14 free throws, most of them in the closing minutes.

Smart had 23 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and six steals for Oklahoma State (21-13). The Cowboys won five of seven games coming in, a run that coincided with Smart’s returning from a three-game suspension for shoving a Texas Tech fan.

EAST REGIONAL

NORTH CAROLINA 79, PROVIDENCE 77

James Michael McAdoo sank two free throws in the final 3.5 seconds, and No. 6 seed North Carolina rallied to beat 11th-seeded Providence.

Providence’s Bryce Cotton scored a career-high 36 points and made one dazzling shot after another down the stretch. But he also fumbled a long rebound in the final moments, robbing the Friars of a chance for a last-second miracle.

Had North Carolina (24-9) lost, it would’ve been the first time since 1979 the Tar Heels and rival Duke lost on the same day of the tournament.

Marcus Paige led North Carolina with 19 points.

MEMPHIS 71, GEORGE WASHINGTON 66

Michael Dixon Jr. scored 19 points and hit four free throws in the final 10 seconds to help Memphis hold off George Washington in the second round of the East Regional.

Joe Jackson added 15 points for the eighth-seeded Tigers (24-9). They entered the tournament having lost three of five to fall out of the national rankings, and shot 49 percent in this one but struggled to put the ninth-seeded Colonials away until the final seconds.

Isaiah Armwood scored a season-high 21 points after playing the final 12 minutes with four fouls for ninth-seeded GW (24-9), which was just 2 of 12 from 3-point range yet never fell behind by more than 10 points.

Leading scorer Maurice Creek — who averages 14 points — finished with nine on 2-of-13 shooting for GW, but he airballed a 3-pointer in the final seconds that would have tied it.

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