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NCAA tournament recap: Mercer dominates Duke in 78-71 victory

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The Duke Blue Devils were ready for a battle on Friday and that’s exactly what they got from Mercer. The No. 14 seeded Bears upset Duke 78-71 with a masterful offensive performance, and they played a little defense too.

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Mercer perfected their game plan and took control of the game with paint points. They shot an astounding 55 percent from the field. In fact, their only flaw in Friday’s game was the defensive rebounding. Other than that, Duke was thoroughly outplayed.

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The Blue Devils hit seven shots that weren’t three pointers. Duke played like they were the underdog, and their only chance to win was to bomb away from 3-point range. They started off hot, but their shooting cooled off just enough for Mercer to impose its will.

In 40 minutes of action, Duke took 40 3-pointers. Mercer took 45 shots total. Either Duke couldn’t attack the rim, or they didn’t want to. It resulted in 7-25 shooting from inside the arc, and that’s where Jabari Parker does most of his damage.

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However, the size and quickness slowed any momentum that Duke tried to muster. Mercer didn’t have one block on the day, yet Duke constantly settled for the three. Former Duke great, Christian Laettner knew what happened and he didn’t even see the game.

Still, the game wasn’t in doubt until, Mercer did what it did best. The Bears used a high ball screen, as they had done all game long. Duke didn’t change their coverage on the play. Daniel Coursey caught the pass wide open in the middle of the lane. Coursey rattled in the dunk attempt as he was fouled by Rodney Hood.

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It highlighted what was a 20-5 run in the second half. It showcased Mercer’s inside dominance and it let Duke know they were in serious trouble. Jakob Gollon led the Bears with 20 points. Four other Mercer players scored in double figures as well.

Langston Hall ran the team with such precision. Mercer only had eight turnovers. While Mercer moves on to play Tennessee in the round of 32, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood have a decision to make about their professional career. This is exactly the type of loss that could make Duke a powerhouse next season.

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