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Mercer (27-8) vs. Tennessee (23-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, March 23, 6:10 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: PNC Arena (19,772) -- Raleigh, North Carolina. Television: TNT. NCAA Tournament Record: Mercer 1-2, Tennessee 18-20. Series Record: Tennessee leads, 3-1.
GAME NOTES: Third-round NCAA Tournament action in the Midwest Region concludes on Sunday with a contest pitting the 14th-seeded Mercer Bears against the 11th-seeded Tennessee Volunteers at PNC Arena in Raleigh.
The winner of the game will move on to face the Michigan Wolverines next Friday in Indianapolis.
Mercer pulled off the most shocking tournament upset this season with a 78-71 victory over the Duke Blue Devils in second-round action on Friday. The Bears, who won the Atlantic Sun Tournament by beating last year's Cinderella story Florida Gulf Coast, will try to duplicate FGCU's success by advancing to the Sweet 16.
Tennessee was dropped by Florida in the SEC Tournament earlier this month, but has now won two national tournament games in a row - against Iowa in a first- round contest to make it through to the round of 64, then against UMass, 86-67, in the second round.
Tennessee leads the all-time series with Mercer, 3-1.
Many had already pegged Duke as not only a favorite to advance through the second round with relative ease over Mercer, but had the Blue Devils possibly making through the tough Midwest region into the Final Four. Mercer had other plans. Duke held just a one-point lead over the Bears at the end of the first half Friday, and the teams traded leads in the second until Mercer was able to pull away down the stretch. Jakob Gollon scored a team-high 20 points in the win, adding five rebounds to his stat line. Daniel Coursey chipped in 17 points, and Anthony White Jr. scored 13. Both Langston Hall and Ike Nwamu chipped in 11 points in the victory.
Hall went under his season scoring average, but the well-rounded scoring display was more important for the Bears in the overall scheme. Hall enters the matchup against Tennessee as the team's leading scorer at 14.6 ppg, adding a team-best 5.6 apg mark to his resume. Coursey is the only other Mercer player to average a double-digit point total at 10.1 ppg, but the Bears still manage to get a solid offensive showing per outing, netting 79.2 ppg as a unit. Coursey paces the squad with a 6.5 rpg average, and defensively the Bears give up just 66.5 ppg to opponents.
Tennessee's second-round contest against Massachusetts started off as what appeared to be an evenly matched game, but the Volunteers suddenly caught fire midway through the frame and led the Minutemen, 41-22, at the end of the period, which allowed Tennessee to coast to the finish. Jarnell Stokes had a spectacular game for the Vols, netting 26 points and grabbing a team-best 14 rebounds. Jordan McRae tallied 21 points in the win, while Josh Richardson contributed 15 points and five assists. Jeronne Maymon finished the game with the Vols' second double-double, scoring 11 points to go with 11 rebounds.
McRae has been a consistent scorer this season for Tennessee. He leads the team entering the game against Mercer with an 18.7 ppg average, having scored over 100 more points than Stokes, who is second on the team at 15.1 ppg. Stokes tops the Vols in rebounding this season with 10.5 rpg, and Maymon adds 8.3 boards per outing of his own. Maymon is Tennessee's third and final double-digit scorer at 10.1 ppg. The Volunteers are netting 71.9 ppg through 35 games played, and give up a minimal 61.3 ppg to opponents.
Mercer will certainly present some challenges, especially with such a fast- paced, up-tempo offense that centers around getting to the rim. But Tennessee's interior defense is one of the best in the country, led by Stokes and Maymon underneath. If Tennessee can keep Gollon away from the basket and limit Hall's opportunities, the Volunteers will be heading to the Sweet 16.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tennessee 77, Mercer 72
03/23 10:32:23 ET
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