Mercer beat Utah State 70-67 in a 66-possession game Wednesday night. I was there. This is what I saw. (Really, this is heavier on the random thoughts than game recap.)
Travel and Altitude Redux
There’s nothing like travel and altitude to enhance one’s road struggles. So serious credit goes to Mercer for overcoming a 2000-mile trip from Macon, Georgia (elevation 400’) to Logan, Utah (elevation 4500’) in addition to the lively crowd. Mercer built an early lead and had to deal with the customary home-team run after halftime. Late in the second half, Utah State scored on eight consecutive possessions to turn a 48-41 deficit into a 55-49 lead. There were no weary legs here, though, as Mercer responded by scoring on the game’s last ten possessions – going 4-of-4 from the field and 10-of-11 from the free throw line – to pull off the victory.
Atlantic Sun = CAA (almost)
The CIT title game provided a reminder that the A-Sun was really good this year. From 2006 to 2008 the league was ranked 29th, 29th, and 28th, respectively, out of 31 conferences. Mercer’s win last night pushed the league into 14th this season, looking down on the Horizon and MAC, and within arms length of the CAA. Belmont heads to the Ohio Valley next season, so this may be the heyday for the A-Sun. While we’re here, let’s give it up for USC Upstate. I had them at 286 in the preseason and they finished 131, going 21-13 including narrow defeats on the road against South Carolina and Dayton, and the memorable home win against Belmont where they reversed a 16-point halftime deficit in front of a near-sellout crowd of 781. I have my eye on you, Eddie Payne.
That’s a lot of home games
Utah State played its 22nd game at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum last night. Since 2000, only Memphis in ‘04-‘05 played more games (23) in one building. The Tigers had the benefit of playing their conference tournament at home that season and played four games in it before losing in infamous fashion in the title game. That sent them to the NIT where they were rewarded with three more home games. Footnote 1: Oregon played 24 home games last season, but those were split across two arenas. Footnote 2: The Aggies’ five home losses were as many as in the previous seven seasons combined.