I knew Robert Morris was probably over-matched against Providence, but I wanted to still hope that they might hang with the Friars anyway. Several guys had a good night; Karvel Anderson, Russell Johnson, and Mike McFadden combined to score 48 points on 55% shooting, including seven threes. The Colonials shot better from the field, and made almost three times as many long range shots. So they must have won, right?
Well, then you notice that they allowed the Friars to snag 14 offensive rebounds, while they had 16 total rebounds themselves. Getting out-rebounded 40-16 is a great way to lose, as is being unable to stop penetration and allowing your opponent to attempt 36 free throws (which they converted at an 86% clip).
It's been a while since I've seen a team so over-matched on the boards - and they clearly had no clue how to turn that tide in their favor, judging by their frenetic leaping all through the second half
When it comes to stopping BYU, it's usually considered a given that Brandon Davies and Tyler Haws are going to get their points. If you can limit that at least a little bit, and prevent anyone else from consistently joining the fray, you have a real shot at beating them.
Unfortunately for Mercer, Davies got his (26 points, 10 rebounds) and Haws got his (24 points). And Matt Carlino got his (18 points 6 rebounds, 9 assists)... and Brock Zylstra got his (14 points, 6 rebounds)... and BYU generally had their way with the Bears.
It was nice to see Travis Smith get hot in the second half and earn his way to 19 points, but it wasn't enough when they couldn't stop the Cougar offense. Daniel Coursey had 11 points, but he also had more fouls (4) than rebounds (3).
Southern Mississippi didn't have a crazy rebounding advantage like the other two winning teams tonight, but it was their strength down low that brought home the bacon. The Eagles were so dominant for such long stretches of the game that they scored two points in the last six minutes (two free throws with 36 seconds left) and still won by 11 points.
How did they do it? Physicality. In those first 34 minutes, the Eagles made 26 shots; 25 of those were two-point shots, and 22 of those were in the paint. That's right, the Eagles had 44 points in the paint, led by 23 points and 15 rebounds from Dwayne Davis and Jonathan Mills, compared to 52 total points by the Bulldogs.
They also did it with defense. The Eagles allowed Alex Hamilton to get his points in the first half, and allowed Rasheed Appleby to get his in the second half, but their suffocating, trapping zone forced the La. Tech to choose which player to get looks for - on those occasions when they weren't playing right into Southern Miss' hands by passing into the corners.
This leaves the Eagles and Cougars as our lone Mid-Major Madness representatives in the NIT, and they will face off Wednesday night in Hattiesburg.