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Mercer's late rally stuns Duke

Mar 21, 2014 - 9:17 PM Raleigh, NC ( - Jakob Gollon scored 20 points and Daniel Coursey added 17, as Mercer pulled off a stunning 78-71 upset of Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Bears closed the contest on a 20-8 run to become the second straight Atlantic Sun team to provide an NCAA surprise. Last year, it was Florida Gulf Coast that knocked off second-seeded Georgetown on the way to the Sweet 16.

Duke, which finished the season ranked eighth in the country, lost its NCAA Tournament opener for the second time in three years. In 2012 as a No. 2 seed, the Blue Devils were beaten by Lehigh.

This year, Duke was seeded third in the Midwest Region after a season in which the Blue Devils began the campaign ranked fourth and dropped down to No. 23 in mid-January before a late-season surge that ended with a loss to Virginia in the ACC Tournament title game.

The Blue Devils usually lived and died by the three-point shot and Friday was no different. It kept them in the game early and was their undoing in the end.

Duke held a 63-58 lead with just under five minutes remaining after Tyler Thornton drained three free throws, but Mercer was undeterred and began its rally by scoring the next 11 points.

Coursey's bucket pulled the Bears within three and Duke followed with a pair of empty trips -- including a missed three -- before Anthony White Jr.'s trey tied it with 2:43 left. Jabari Parker missed a three for Duke and the Bears moved in front with 1:54 to play when Gollon converted both ends of a 1-and-1.

Rodney Hood was called for traveling on Duke's next possession and the Bears extended the margin when Langston Hall threaded a perfect pass to Coursey, who converted a three-point play to make it 68-63 with 1:07 remaining.

Andre Dawkins misfired from beyond the arc and Hall connected on 1-of-2 free throws for a six-point lead with 53 seconds left.

Rasheed Sulaimon's three-point play pulled Duke within three and the Bears beat the press with a long inbound pass that led to White's layup. After Sulaimon missed, White corralled the rebound and drained a pair from the line with 36 seconds left for a 73-66 lead.

A dunk by Parker made it a five-point difference and Duke came up with a steal but lost the ball out of bounds. White made one from the stripe and Sulaimon missed a pair of shots from beyond the arc around two free throws from Gollon that sealed the improbable victory, Mercer's first in three NCAA Tournament appearances.

Gollon made each of his nine free throws and Mercer connected 23-of-28 from the line overall while also shooting 55.6 percent from the field. White finished with 13 points and Hall chipped in 11 for the 14th-seeded Bears (27-8), who are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1985 and will meet Tennessee in a third-round matchup Sunday.

"Our guys continue to believe at such a high level in each other and their own skill set," said Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman.

Duke shot a dismal 35.5 percent overall and made 15-of-37 from beyond the arc. Quinn Cook scored 23 points and Sulaimon added 20 for the Blue Devils (26-9), who were playing their 19th straight NCAA Tournament and were denied the program's 100th tourney victory.

Parker, the heralded freshman who may have played his only NCAA Tournament game, finished with 14 points. He made just 4-of-14 from the field and added seven rebounds in defeat.

It was just the fifth time the Blue Devils were ousted after one game in the NCAA Tournament under coach Mike Krzyzewski. In addition to the 2012 shocker, Duke also lost its tourney opener in 2007, 1996 and 1984.

"Congratulations to Mercer ... they're really a good basketball team. We knew that coming in," said Krzyzewski. "We couldn't get anything inside against them. And I'm disappointed for our team because I thought -- it wasn't easy, like Hood and Parker did not have easy games tonight and our backcourt, our guys played their hearts out and so did those two kids. And we showed our youth, I thought. You know, we got that 65-60 lead and they showed their maturity during that time."

Mercer, with its senior-laded squad, showed it would not be intimated right away as White answered Sulaimon's game-opening three with one for the Bears. Three free throws by Hall gave Mercer its first lead at 12-9 just 6 1/2 minutes into the contest, but Cook followed with a trey for Duke and came up with a steal and a layup to again put the Blue Devils on top.

Duke opened a small cushion with a 12-3 run fueled by triples from Cook, Sulaimon and Hood for a 26-20 margin. The lead reached seven a couple of times, but Mercer closed the half with a 7-2 run to pull within 35-34 at the break.

After Cook started the second half with a three, the Bears scored seven straight to grab a 41-38 lead. Two free throws by Gollon a few minutes later gave Mercer its largest advantage to that point, 45-40. Duke responded with the next eight, but could never pull away.

"They stayed together all 40 minutes," Cook said about Mercer. "It was a game of runs and both teams made runs and they stayed together. When we went up 65-60, they could have easily splintered, but like coach said, their leadership stepped up and they're a veteran team and they play together."

Game Notes

Mercer lost to Georgia Tech in the first round of the 1985 tournament and also fell to Arkansas in its first NCAA appearance in 1981 ... Duke reached the Elite Eight last year and lost to eventual national champion Louisville in the regional final ... The schools met for the first time since a 126-64 Duke rout on Dec. 21, 1997 in Durham ... Mercer beat Florida Gulf Coast in the A-Sun title game after losing in the tournament championship game last year ... Both of Duke's tourney-opening losses in the last three years came close to home, as Lehigh beat Duke in Greensboro two years ago and Friday's defeat came only about 20 miles from the Blue Devils' campus in Raleigh.