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BYU basketball: Cougars brush up on NIT foe Mercer, come away impressed

Published March 22, 2013 8:29 pm

BYU basketball • Mercer has beaten giant-killer FGCU.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • Florida Gulf Coast, the No. 15 seed that shocked No. 2 seed Georgetown on Friday night in the NCAA Tournament, gave BYU's basketball team further proof that Mercer will be a formidable opponent in Monday's NIT second-round game at the Marriott Center.

Mercer downed Florida Gulf Coast 77-70 at home in Macon, Ga., on Jan. 2 en route to winning the Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season title. The Bears lost just 60-57 at FGCU on Feb. 28, then fell to the Eagles 88-75 in the championship game of the ASC Tournament on March 9.

"We are in for a challenge," BYU senior Brock Zylstra said.

Ever since No. 7 seed Mercer downed No. 2 seed Tennessee 75-67 in Knoxville on Wednesday night, BYU coach Dave Rose has been reminding the Cougars that the Bears have won six straight postseason games, including the Collegeinsider.com championship game last March in Logan against Utah State.

"All of our guys understand that this is a very good basketball team," Rose said of 24-11 Mercer. "Hopefully, our guys are impressed with this team, because they are good. They are a really, really good basketball team."

A team that not only won at Tennessee in the NIT opener, but also at the SEC's Alabama (66-59) and at the ACC's Florida State (61-56), which pounded BYU 88-70 in New York last November.

"A lot of us watched the game [against Tennessee]," said Tyler Haws. "They are a tough team, went right at Tennessee, weren't scared at all."

Moving up the charts

With 37 points on Tuesday, Haws became the fifth player in BYU history to score 700 points or more in a single season, joining Jimmer Fredette (who did it twice), Devin Durrant, Danny Ainge and Michael Smith. Haws has scored 706 points and has scored 20 points or more in 22 games this season, tied for fifth in school history.

"We just want to keep playing and go as far as we can," Haws said Friday. "That's what teams do in March, and hopefully we can get this next one."

Injury update

Sophomore forward Josh Sharp missed Tuesday's game with a strained Achilles tendon and has not practiced in more than a week. He is doubtful against Mercer.

Junior guard Raul Delgado did not play against Washington due to a tailbone injury but has practiced the last two days and should be available to play Monday.

Briefly

Mercer and BYU will be meeting for the first time on Monday. ... The Cougars are now 13-8 in NIT games, and 7-1 in NIT games played in the Marriott Center. ... Mercer is 8-2 in its last 10 games. ... After downing Washington 90-79, BYU teams coached by Rose are 44-0 when scoring 90 points or more.

drew@sltrib.com

Mercer at BYU

O NIT second round

Monday, 7 p.m.