Mercer's basketball Bears up for ESPN Espy award

Mercer's basketball Bears up for ESPN Espy award

The Mercer basketball team has been nominated for a national award.
MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - The Mercer basketball team has been nominated for a national award.

The Bears are in the running for an ESPN Espy for the "Best Upset".

14th-seeded Mercer beat third-seeded Duke in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

"Once the ball got tipped up, it was another game," said Associate Head Coach Doug Esleek.

Another game that brought some major attention to the 14th seeded Mercer Bears.

"The accomplishments on and off the court are really remarkable, and these guys deserve all the recognition they're receiving," said Esleek.

Hardly anyone expected the bears to win against the third seeded Duke Blue Devils in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

Hardly anyone--except the team and its fans.

"Our young men in that locker room before the game believed with their whole heart in each other, in coach, and believed that we could win," said Esleek.

A belief that became a reality with the team's 78-71 victory.

"The guys were going crazy in the locker room, Coach K came in and congratulated our team," said Esleek.

The game earned congratulations from Duke's Hall of Fame Coach, as well as a nomination for an ESPY award--"Best Upset".

But Esleek knew the team had it in them all along.

"So there was no question there was a ton of excitement," said Esleek. "But there was zero surprise. Nobody was surprised in that locker room but everybody was so thrilled and happy for each other."

It took something only empty seats and teammates witnessed.

"I think it's a validation of how hard that they've worked," said Esleek. "Because there were times when it was just them, you know in the gym in here late at night. Working on their game every single day doing the things that it took when no one was in here watching and cheering for them to have the success that they had on the court."

From empty arenas to a packed house.

The other nominees include UConn winning the NCAA Title Game, as well as UFC middleweight champion Chris Weildman's victory over former titleholder Anderson Silva.
The winner will be announced on July 16th.
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