In 2014, Mercer recorded one of the most shocking opening-round upsets in NCAA Tournament history, knocking off No. 3 Duke, 78-71, in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Mercer, which had an all-senior starting lineup, hadn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1985. Duke, meanwhile, had reached 11 Final Fours and won four national championships during that same stretch.
The key to the upset? Limiting Jabari Parker, who was taken second overall in the NBA Draft just a couple of months later.
“We frustrated Jabari early, which was tough,” former Mercer player Jakob Gollon said on The DA Show. “He’s obviously an excellent talent and we knew we could kind of get in his head a little bit by throwing some different schemes at him, which we did. We turned him and Rodney Hood over a couple of times early, they didn’t hit shots right off the bat, and at that point, we [knew] that we could handle the game from there.”
Gollon, who scored a team-high 20 points, limited Parker to 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting from the floor. Duke shot 15-of-37 (40.5 percent) from three but just 7-of-25 (28 percent) from inside the arc.
“They had a very talented team, but their talents – one-dimensional doesn’t do it the right service,” Gollon said. “But their guys that had superior strength had superior strength in a very narrow way. So for Jabari, there’s no reason I can’t go into this, but we had a one-dribble rule on him. I guarded him most of the game, and then we rotated a few others. But I basically took his initial shot away because he’s a set shooter, and as soon as he put it on the deck, whoever was in the gap was automatically going to bum-rush or come at him with open hands for at least one step. As soon as he picked it up, you’re going up to the shooter – because if he doesn’t make it all the way to the rim, he didn’t really shoot midrange shots.
“So we would take guys like that, and as talented as he was and as efficient as he was at the things he was good at, we just decided we were going to take away the one or two best things they do and we’re going to live with the rest,” Gollon continued. “They’re going to have to come out hot to beat us, and it worked. Every one of their players was like that to some degree. Hood didn’t hit shots early, Jabari couldn’t get to the rim and we forced it down low and kept attacking the basket early. So the game-plan did work.”