Mercer's Kevin Canevari (3), Jakob Gollon (20) and Ike Nwamu (10) celebrates after beating Duke in Friday's opening round. (Reuters)
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Mercer's big moment will last a little longer in this NCAA Tournament.
In the first game of tournament play Friday, the Atlantic Sun rose again, with conference champion Mercer shocking third-seeded Duke 78-71 in a Midwest Regional second-round game.
"Our guys continue to believe at such a high level," coach Bob Hoffman said. "When you work as hard as they have for 365 days, it was just a blessing to see this happen."
Mercer follows Florida Gulf Coast -- the darling of the 2013 NCAA Tournament from the Atlantic Sun that beat Mercer in the conference tournament last season -- 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.
"It hasn't hit me yet," Mercer guard Ike Nwamu said. "It probably will hit me in the next couple of hours or so."
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.
"Our guys tried," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I have no fault with my team. Sometimes the other team just plays better. I applaud it and I applaud Mercer."
Krzyzewski stopped by the Mercer locker room after his news conference to congratulate the Bears.
"We're a very veteran team, we've been saying it all week," Gollon said. "When it gets tough out there, when it gets loud, we have a lot of guys who stay focused."
Guard Quinn Cook, a junior with a career-high seven 3-pointers, 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.
"Hopefully we have some more juice in us," Mercer guard Kevin Canevari said. "It's a huge win for us, for Mercer. We hope to dance again."
Mercer shot 55.6 percent (25 for 45) from the field.
"We didn't make the stops when we needed to," Sulaimon said. "That's what it came down to. That's the story of our season. We were getting leads and we couldn't knock teams out."
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.
Parker and Hood combined to shoot six for 24 from the field.
"We didn't get that (usual bump) from our two best guys," Krzyzewski said. "I feel bad for them. ... Jabari has had a great, great year. It's a frustrating way for it to end."
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 turned out 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 Gollon's 3 in the final minute gave the Bears seven consecutive points and a brief one-point edge.
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.
Nwamu countered with 11 first-half points off the bench for Mercer.
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.
No. 2 Kansas survives close call vs. No. 15 E. Kentucky
ST. LOUIS — On a Friday highlighted by Mercer’s stunner over Duke, Eastern Kentucky nearly smote a giant of its own in Scottrade Center.
But No. 2 Kansas finally gained control after a first half rife with turnovers, using its physical advantages inside to wear down the gritty Colonels and take an 80-69 NCAA Tournament second round victory.
Freshman forward Andrew Wiggins scored 19 points for the Jayhawks (25-9), who will meet 10th-seeded Stanford on Sunday in the third round of the South Region.
Senior guard Glenn Cosey paced the No. 15 Colonels with 17 points and helped Eastern Kentucky get off to a fast start, scoring 14 points in the first 11 minutes. His 3-pointer at the 8:47 mark forced Jayhawks coach Bill Self to burn a timeout with his team trailing, 23-14.
But Kansas forged a 32-32 tie at the half behind 10 points from Wiggins. It finally pulled away down the stretch as its fans in a crowd of 17,955 exhaled.
NO. 3 CREIGHTON 76, NO. 14 LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 66: Doug McDermott piled up 30 points and 12 rebounds as the Bluejays held off the Ragin’ Cajuns in the second round of the NCAA tournament in San Antonio.
Austin Chatman contributed 16 points and six assists for No. 3 seed Creighton (27-7), which will face No. 6 seed Baylor in the third round of West regional action on Sunday. Ethan Wragge scored all 12 of his points from beyond the arc as the Bluejays won an NCAA tournament game for the third straight season.
NO. 1 ARIZONA 68, NO. 16 WEBER STATE 59: Nick Johnson scored 18 points as Arizona topped pesky Weber State in an all-Wildcats matchup in the West regional of the NCAA tournament in San Diego.
Aaron Gordon had 16 points and eight rebounds and fellow freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson notched 13 points for top-seeded Arizona (31-4), which will face No. 8 Gonzaga in Sunday’s third round. Gordon also had five blocks, as did Kaleb Tarczewski, and the Wildcats finished with a season-high 12 rejections.
NO. 10 STANFORD 58, NO. 7 NEW MEXICO 53: Chasson Randle scored 23 points to lead the Cardinal past the Lobos in Midwest regional play in St. Louis.
Anthony Brown and Stefan Nastic added 10 points apiece for 10th-seeded Stanford (22-12), which advances to face Kansas in Sunday’s round of 32. The Cardinal led by 16 points early in the game and held off New Mexico’s charge to post the program’s first NCAA tournament victory since 2008.
NO. 6 BAYLOR 74, NO. 11 NEBRASKA 60: Cory Jefferson scored 16 points and Isaiah Austin added 13 as the Bears knocked off the Cornhuskers in the second round of the NCAA tournament in San Antonio.
Brady Heslip went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line en route to 12 points for No. 6 seed Baylor (25-11), which will take on third-seeded Creighton in the third round of West regional play on Sunday. Rico Gathers scored 11 points for the Bears, who went 38-for-48 from the free-throw line.
NO. 8 GONZAGA 85, NO. 9 OKLAHOMA STATE 77: Kevin Pangos scored 26 points as the Bulldogs topped the Cowboys in a second-round NCAA tournament game in San Diego.
Gary Bell totaled 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting — 3-of-4 from outside the arc — while Przemek Karnowski added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the eighth-seeded Bulldogs (29-6), who advanced to Sunday’s third-round matchup against Arizona, the top seed in the West regional. Kyle Dranginis chipped in 12 points in a reserve role for Gonzaga.