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 on Friday, 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.
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.
Tennessee 86, Massachusetts 67: Jarnell Stokes scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead Tennessee to an easy win in Raleigh, N.C.
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’ 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, and never got closer than 10 again.
Wichita St. 64, Cal Poly 37: Cleanthony 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 in St. Louis.
The Shockers (35-0) dominated from the opening tip 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: Cal Poly 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, was held to six points on 2-for-14 shooting.
Kentucky 56, Kansas St. 49: Julius Randle had 19 points and 15 rebounds, Aaron Harrison finished with 18 points, and No. 8 seed Kentucky won in St. Louis to earn a date with top-seeded Wichita State.
The preseason No. 1, Kentucky (25-10) is finally starting to live up to the expectations that came with its heralded recruiting class. John Calipari’s bunch nearly knocked off Florida in the SEC title game last week, and seemed to carry that momentum into the NCAA tournament.
Marcus Foster had 15 points, Shane Southwell scored 11, and Thomas Gipson finished with 10 for Kansas State (20-13).