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Mercer 78, Duke 71

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RALEIGH, N.C. — In the first game of NCAA Tournament play Friday, the Atlantic Sun rose again, with conference champion Mercer shocking third-seeded Duke 78-71 in a second round Midwest Regional game.

Mercer follows Florida Gulf Coast, the darling of the 2013 NCAA Tournament from the Atlantic Sun, in advancing to a third round game Sunday in the school’s first appearance in the event in 29 years. The Bears will face the winner of Tennessee-Massachusetts.

Forward Jakob Gollon scored 20 points, including 15 in the second half, and forward Daniel Coursey poured in 17 points for the 14th-seeded Bears (27-8), who received 13 points from guard Anthony White Jr.

Duke exited the tournament with an 0-1 mark for the second time in three seasons. The Blue Devils were coming off a loss to Virginia in Sunday’s Atlantic Coast Conference tournament final.

Guard Quinn Cook scored 23 points and guard Rasheed Sulaimon, who knocked down a season-high five 3-point baskets, finished with 20 points for third-seeded Duke (26-9). Freshman forward Jabari Parker had 14 points.

White’s 3-point basket tied the game at 63-63 with 2:41 left.

Parker misfired on a 3-pointer for Duke, then Gollon made both ends of a 1-and-1 with 1:54 to play. Duke forward Rodney Hood was called for a traveling violation with 1:33 left.

Coursey’s three-point play built Mercer’s edge to 68-63 with 1:07 on the clock.

The second half was filled with potentially key sequences.

Mercer’s 45-40 lead began to fade with guard Tyler Thornton’s 3-pointer. The Blue Devils were ahead again at 48-45 on Cook’s 3. Another Cook 3-pointer with 9:05 to go allowed the Blue Devils to grab a 54-51 lead. Mercer pulled even on Gollon’s three-point play at the 7:21 mark.

Cook countered with a 3-pointer as the teams traded taking the lead.

Parker’s three-point play gave the Blue Devils a 60-58 lead. Parker blocked Gollon’s attempt in the lane on the next possession. Thornton converted three free throws for Duke after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt.

It was reminiscent to Duke’s last in-state NCAA Tournament game when the Blue Devils fell to Lehigh in 2012 in Greensboro in the same round.

Duke held a 35-34 halftime lead after building as much as a seven-point gap.

Duke connected on eight first-half 3-pointers, but Mercer forward Jakob Gollon’s 3 in the final minute gave the Bears seven consecutive points and a brief one-point edge.

Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon hit two early 3-point baskets, and a third one for a 20-17 lead with 9:32 left in the half. His next 3 came a minute later.

Mercer guard Ike Nwamu countered with 11 first-half points off the bench.

The Blue Devils launched 21 of their 34 first-half shots from 3-point range. The first 10 offensive rebounds were also collected by Duke.

NOTES: Mercer C Monty Brown missed the second half with a concussion. He was seated on the bench with ear plugs for noise sensitivity. … Mercer is in the NCAA Tournament for the third time, but its first appearance since 1985. … Duke entered the game seeking its 100th all-time NCAA Tournament victory. … Duke assistant coaches Steve Wojciechowski and Nate James were players for the Blue Devils the last time they faced Mercer on Dec. 21, 1997.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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