Aggies aim high against defense-minded Mercer

Mar 27 2012 - 11:53pm

LOGAN -- Without a doubt, Stew Morrill liked what he saw Sunday evening as his team shellacked Oakland University for 105 points at the Smith Spectrum.

He has used the terms "proud" and "excited" to describe the team's enthusiasm to continue playing this season, despite playing in a tournament viewed by many as the fourth-tier playoff at the NCAA level.

He has said that his team's run -- they've now won seven of their past eight games -- "will leave a good taste in our seniors' mouths" and that "it's added a positive element to the season."

Though Morrill may believe all these things about his group, he doesn't quite accept the notion that USU will quite reach the level they displayed Sunday when they face Mercer (26-11) tonight in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament championship contest.

The Aggies scored the program's highest single-game tally in 15 years, while the 60 points they poured in the first half mark the most in school history, according to available records.

Tip-off against the Bears is at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on Fox College Sports.

"I mean, Sunday was a different sort of game. It was just one of those types you don't get in very often," he said. "Playing Oakland, it isn't what we're used to. Baskets are going to be a lot harder to come by (against Mercer)."

That may have to do with the fact that the Bears, who finished second in the Atlantic Sun Conference and allow less than 63 points per game, first in their league. The Bears also lead the Atlantic Sun in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to a 38.5 percent clip, as well as 3-point percentage defense, rebounding defense and blocked shots.

"They do a very good job of getting in the gaps and playing inside the 3-point line," Morrill said. "A lot of times they have five guys inside the 3-point line. You look at their field goal percentage defense and watch them on film and you know they're very sound. I would use that term on both ends of the floor."

Though Morrill said the Bears do not remind him of any particular opponent the Aggies have faced this season, he said that Mercer's size -- one starting post, Daniel Coursey, is 6-foot-11, while one of their bench playes, Monty Brown is 6-foot-10 -- is comparable to BYU. However, Morrill didn't need to look past his own locker room to find similarities, from various skill positions to size in the post to their primary defense being man-to-man sets.

"I think they're a system program as we are," he said. "They do things the way they do them and they have a lot of confidence in their system and it has obviously been good to them. And they're very balanced in scoring. They have a lot of different guys who can step up and have a big night."

Mercer is led in scoring by Langston Hall, who averages 11.3 points per game. Guards Justin Cecil and Jakob Gollon also average in double figures.

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