Hall guides Mercer to CIT Final victory
Logan, UT (Sports Network) - Langston Hall was named the 2012 CollegeInsider.com Tournament's most valuable player, posting 16 points and grabbing six rebounds to lead Mercer to a 70-67 victory over Utah State in Wednesday's title game.
Travis Smith poured in a game-high 17 points and Bud Thomas chipped in 10 for the Bears (27-11), who won three straight games on the road to finish out the 2012 CIT tourney.
"It has been fantastic, because we were close as a team and we have stayed in a tight circle all year," remarked Mercer head coach Bob Hoffman. "The three road wins and being on the road together I think has united us even further and solidified what these young guys believed they could do anywhere, in any place and against any odds."
Kyisean Reed led the way for Utah State (21-16) with 15 points and seven rebounds, Preston Medlin netted 14 points and Danny Berger added 13 points. The Aggies were vying for their first postseason tournament title in school history, despite making their 13th straight postseason appearances.
A Thomas free throw pushed the Mercer lead to 10 early in the second half, but the Aggies started their surge, reeling off a 9-2 run before Thomas hit back- to-back jumpers to make it 45-38 with 12:18 left,
Utah State had another push, however, as Reed scored 10 straight points in a 17-4 spurt to give the Aggies their first lead since early in the first half.
Berger's three-pointer capped the run and pushed the margin to 55-49 with 4:35 left in the second, but Mercer responded with five straight as Thomas' triple cut the difference to one just a minute later.
The margin was one again when Hall sank the go-ahead jumper to put Mercer on top for good with 2:13 left in the game.
Smith pushed the lead to four shortly after on a trey from the right wing to give Mercer a 63-59 edge with 49 seconds left.
Hall added four straight from the charity stripe around a Morgan Grim layup to push the lead to 68-64, but Medlin buried a trey from the top of the key with less than 10 seconds remaining to give Utah State one final breath.
Brockeith Pane got a good look at a three from the top of the key after Jakob Gollon hit two at the line, but his shot missed short off the front of the rim as time expired.
"They just played smarter than us and that was basically the biggest difference," said Utah State head coach Stew Morrill. "They've won 27 games for a reason. They're a good team. They came up in the second half, but we fought hard, looked like we were in good shape when we got up by six, but we couldn't get them stopped."
Utah State turned the ball over eight times in the first half, compared to just one for Mercer, as the Bears took a 31-22 lead at the half.
The Mercer Bears finished second in the Atlantic Sun behind Belmont, while the Utah State Aggies finished fourth in the Western Athletic Conference...Utah State had won the only other meeting between the two teams, a 74-55 decision back in 1999.
03/29 01:21:25 ET