Rushed Reactions: #14 Mercer 78, #3 Duke 71Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 21st, 2014
Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.
Three Key Takeaways.
- It’s better to have great young talent than good experienced talent, but not always. Mercer had a huge experience edge coming in with five senior starters in its lineup. Their poise and execution were at a high level almost the entire game, and in the end that was just enough to overcome the disparity in talent. The talent gap was most apparent on the offensive boards where Duke dominated with a +13 advantage. But the Bears were better in all of the fundamental stats, winning the turnover battle (+4) and shooting much better from the field (by nearly 20 percent). For most of the contest Mercer got the shots they wanted and were the more fundamentally sound team. The Bears were also the calmer-looking group down the stretch, perhaps aided by the confidence gained in winning five overtime games this year.
- Duke’s defense was historically bad this year. For most of the game Mercer was able to execute its half-court offense and get good shots, especially at the rim. And as was the case for much of the season, Duke couldn’t defend without fouling. We all knew that interior defense would be a weakness for them this year, but most thought that the Blue Devils would make up for that with great perimeter pressure. That did not turn out to be the case. Some think Duke had a harder time than most adjusting to the enforcement of rules protecting offensive players from defensive hand-checking, as well as making it harder to draw charges. That may be part of it, but it its more likely that this group just doesn’t have the mindset to dig in and stop people.
- The two stars for Duke didn’t come through. Coming into the NCAA Tournament, most of the concern for Duke was centered around its inconsistent backcourt in support of its two stars. But it was those stars, Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, that let the Blue Devils down today. Guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon kept Duke in the game with a combined total of 43 points and 12 three-point baskets. On the other hand, Parker and Hood struggled throughout, totaling 20 points on a frigid 6-of-24 shooting performance. Perhaps it was knowing that it was the only NCAA Tournament they will ever see, with both projected to go early in the upcoming NBA Draft, that caused the shaky effort that ultimately sank the Blue Devils.
Star of the Game. Jakob Gollon, Mercer. The sixth-year senior was solid on both ends. He led the way with 20 points and five rebounds and helped force Duke’s star Jabari Parker into a 4-of-14 shooting day.
Quotable: “We showed our youth. They showed their maturity, especially down the stretch” — Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, discussing how the game was decided.
Sights and Sounds. While Duke clearly had more fans in this semi-home game in Raleigh, Mercer brought a good number of supporters that were loud and enthusiastic throughout. And of course the Bears fine play drew support from the other school’s fans as well.
What’s Next? Mercer moves on to play the winner of Massachusetts vs. Tennessee in Sunday’s round of 32.