March 28, 2012
LOGAN, Utah - After an 8-0 run gave Utah State its first lead of the second half, Mercer stopped the Aggies' rally to regain the lead, and held on for a wild, 70-67, win Wednesday night in the CollegeInsider.com Men's Basketball Postseason Tournament Championship game at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in a nationally televised thriller on Fox College Sports.
The Bears hit 7-of-8 free throws in the game's final 23 seconds and USU senior guard Brockeith Pane's game-tying three-point attempt came up just short at the buzzer to end the Aggies' historic postseason run. Utah State had won a school-record four postseason games to reach Wednesday's title game, but Mercer made history of its own with its fifth-straight win to improve to 27-11 overall. USU ends with a 21-16 mark, as the Aggies remain one of five schools with 13-consecutive 21-win seasons in the country, joined by Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas and Syracuse.
Mercer's Langston Hall was named the CIT MVP, as he netted 16 points to go with six rebounds and four assists Wednesday night. He was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Justin Cecil and Travis Smith, as Smith netted a game-high 17 points, including hitting a jumper and a deep three-pointer in the final minute and a half, while Cecil tallied six points and six rebounds.
Three Aggies earned all-tournament honors, as Pane scored 10 points and dished out five assists, and was joined by fellow senior, forward Morgan Grim, who had nine points and six rebounds, as Pane and Grim were playing their final games in a USU uniform and are the Aggies' only two seniors. Sophomore guard Preston Medlin joined the senior duo in all-tournament award collecting, tallying 14 points and five rebounds, hitting two three-pointers.
Junior forward Kyisean Reed posted 15 points, including three dunks on successive Aggie possessions during their second-half rally. Reed also pulled down a game-high seven rebounds, helping USU to a slight, 36-33 rebounding edge, just the seventh loss for the Aggies when they out-rebounded the opponent, compared to 14 wins when doing so. Sophomore guard Danny Berger added 13 points, hitting three treys in the game, to go with six rebounds.
USU shot 22-of-53 (41.5 percent) from the field, including 7-of-23 (30.4 percent) behind the three-point arc, and the Aggies were 16-of-22 (72.7 percent) at the free throw line.
Bud Thomas added 10 points for the Bears, who made 40.4 percent (23-of-57) of their field goals, making 28.6 percent (6-of-21) of their three-pointers and were 18-of-23 (78.4 percent) at the charity stripe, including 14-of-17 (82.4 percent) in the second half.
An old-fashioned three-point play by Medlin gave USU a 13-12 lead with 13:48 to go, but Mercer scored the next six points to take an 18-13 lead at the 10:11 mark, and the Bears stretched their advantage to 31-22 at the half after a runner by Hall with eight seconds left.
Mercer took its largest lead of the night at 10 points on two occasions, the last at 39-29 with 16:47 on the clock. Berger later hit a three-pointer to pull USU within, 41-38, at the 14:20 mark, but Thomas netted back-to-back buckets for a 45-38 Bears lead with 12:19 to go. Exactly five minutes later Travis Smith hit a deep three from the left wing in the waning seconds of the shot clock to put Mercer ahead, 48-43, with 7:19 left.
Later, down 49-47, Berger hit a bucket then Reed jammed home a dunk for his fourth slam in the last five Aggie scoring possessions to spark USU's 8-0 run. The spurt gave Utah State its first lead since 13-12, and a Medlin free throw was later followed by a Berger trey from the left corner for a 55-49 Aggie advantage. Mercer scored 11 of the game's next 13 points, with Travis Smith capping the streak with a runner from the left side followed by a jumper from the right elbow for a 60-57 Bears lead with 1:38 to go. Two Reed free pitches pulled USU within 60-59, but Smith drained a trey from the right wing with 50 seconds to go for a 63-59 lead. The Aggies got within two points on three different possessions, but Mercer hit free throws to seal its CIT title.
Fans can follow the Aggie basketball program at twitter.com/Aggiehoops or on the USU men's basketball blog at usubasketball.blogspot.com. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on facebook at Utah State University Athletics.
CollegeInsider.com Men's Basketball Postseason Tournament All-Tournament Team
Langston Hall, Mercer - MVP
Justin Cecil, Mercer
Travis Smith, Mercer
Brockeith Pane, Utah State
Morgan Grim, Utah State
Preston Medlin, Utah State
Reggie Hamilton, Oakland
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