Mercer (24-11) at BYU (22-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, March 25, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Marriott Center (22,700) -- Provo, Utah. Television: ESPN News. NIT Record: Mercer 1-0, BYU 13-8. Series Record: First meeting.
GAMES NOTES: In the second round of the National Invitational Tournament the BYU Cougars will host the Mercer Bears for the first time ever when they square off at the Marriott Center Monday night.
This will be the first meeting in any venue between these squads. The winner will move on to contend with either Southern Miss or Louisiana Tech in the next round.
Although Robert Morris understandably got more buzz from topping Kentucky in the first round, Mercer also knocked off a perennial SEC power with a 75-67 win over Tennessee last Wednesday. The win was the 12th in the last 14 games for the Bears with the only setbacks coming against Florida Gulf Coast, which has made some noise in the NCAA Tournament. The Bears are 24-11 overall on the campaign and are in their first ever NIT.
Stumbles down the stretch didn't stop BYU from pushing past Washington, 90-79, in the first round. The Cougars had lost five of eight contests entering the postseason, including a 72-69 upset loss to San Diego at the Marriott Center. BYU is in the midst of its 11th appearance in the NIT, winning titles during the 1951 and 1966 seasons. BYU has won seven of its eight games in the NIT at the Marriott Center.
Paced by 24 points from Travis Smith, Mercer knocked off the Volunteers in Knoxville. Three of the other four starters scored in double figures for the Bears who shot 56.0 percent from the field as a team and knocked down 7-of-18 shots from 3-point range.
Smith (13.8 ppg) is one of only two consistent double-figure scoring threats for the Bears, who are not a particularly strong offensive team netting just 65.7 points per game as a team. Where Mercer excels is on the defensive end. The Bears are among the top 40 teams in the country in both scoring defense (58.4 pg) and field-goal percentage defense (.393). Langston Hall (11.2 ppg) has also been known to carry the offensive load for the Bears and is coming off a strong showing against Tennessee, finishing with 16 points and seven assists.
The trio of Tyler Haws, Brandon Davies and Matt Carlino powered the Cougars over Washington last time out. Haws poured in a game-high 27 points, Davies had 22 points and nine rebounds and Carlino also came close to a double-double with 20 points and nine assists.
The Cougars' effort against the Huskies has been their blueprint all season with the team relying heavily on Haws, Davies and Carlino. Haws (21.4 ppg) was the leading scorer in the West Coast Conference this season and can score from anywhere, including from beyond the arc. Davies (17.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg) can pound away on the inside with nine double-doubles on the campaign, while also scoring at least 20 points in the past two contests. Carlino (11.0 ppg, 4.5 apg) often takes a backseat in the scoring department, while making sure to keep the rest of the team involved.
The Marriott Center has been a safe haven for the Cougars this season with the team 14-3 on its home floor. Mercer may have been able to take out Tennessee on the road but another victory away from home may be too much to ask for.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: BYU 80, Mercer 70
03/25 10:31:46 ET