Paint woes send Duke to another early loss

March, 21, 2014
Mar 21
4:16
PM ET

Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsThe Mercer Bears celebrate their huge upset win over Duke.
Thursday may have had four overtime games and endless fantastic finishes, but Friday has started off pretty good, too, with perhaps the tournament's biggest upset so far.

The 14th-seeded Mercer Bears beat the third-seeded Duke Blue Devils 78-71, giving the school from Macon, Ga., its first NCAA tournament win and doing it in style. Mercer outscored Duke 20-8 in the final 4:53, going 11-of-13 from the free throw line to ice the game.

Mercer's win continues a nice trend for the Atlantic Sun Conference, following Florida Gulf Coast's run to the Sweet 16 last season. Prior to 2012-13, the Atlantic Sun had lost 11 straight round-of-64 games by an average of 14.8 points per game.

The Atlantic Sun joins the Ohio Valley as the only conferences to have a team win a game in the round of 64 as a 14- or 15-seed in consecutive seasons.

Another early exit for Duke
On the other side of the court, things are not looking so rosy as Duke suffered another early loss in the tournament.

Duke has been a top-3 seed 26 times since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams. From 1985 to 2011, the Blue Devils were 23-0 in the round of 64 as a top-3 seed. But Thursday, Duke became the fifth team to lose twice as a top-3 seed in the round, joining Arizona, Georgetown, Missouri and South Carolina.

But Duke's troubles don't end there. It is the program's fifth loss to a double-digit seed as a top-3 seed, the only school in NCAA tournament history to do that.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski has now been at the helm for five losses to double-digit seeds, matching the most such losses by any coach in tournament history. The others are Mike Brey, John Thompson III, Jim Boeheim, Bob Knight and Bobby Cremins.

And after losing to 15-seed Lehigh last season, Krzyzewski is the fourth coach to lose to both a 14-seed and a 15-seed. The others are Thompson, Eddie Folger and Lute Olson.

What went wrong for Duke?
The Blue Devils' reliance on 3-point shots and the lack of an interior game ultimately doomed them. They missed 18 of their 25 shots inside the arc, as Mercer's Daniel Coursey matched the entire Duke team with seven made 2-point field goals.

Duke scored a season-low 10 points in the paint and was outscored by 16 points there. The starting frontcourt (Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker, Amile Jefferson) was a combined 4-of-16 shooting in the paint.

Duke got most of its offense off missed shots, scoring 23 second-chance points on 8-of-13 shooting after an offensive rebound, including 5-of-7 from the 3-point line.

However, on first-chance opportunities, it shot 14-of-49 from the floor with 30 of its 49 attempts coming from behind the 3-point line. The Blue Devils did not have any offensive rebounds in the final five minutes of the game.

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