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Mercer 75 Suffolk 64.

Coach Howie Levy:

A day after their four point loss to CCRI, the Mercer Vikings (0-1) were back home Sunday for the second afternoon of the Mercer/Burlington Classic against the Suffolk N.Y. Clippers.

Flat on defense and repeatedly missing open three point shots from the same space on the far right side of the Suffolk zone, the Vikings found themselves in an early 15-4 hole.

"I don't mind them taking the right threes but I think the threes tend to go in after some more ball movement," said Mercer County C.C. head coach Howie Levy. "They were open but the weren't necessarily the greatest shots - that's part of the learning process to know you're always going to get that shot, let's see if we can do a bit better."

While their outside attempts remained off-target (the Vikings missed their first 13 attempts from behind the arc), the team turned to two things they could directly control - defensive pressure and the degree to which they attacked the basket.

"I thought we came out real flat and our defense was bad," agreed Levy. "Those guys [on Suffolk] were just driving around us to their right. We know that they go to their right so we said force'm left."

Mercer closed to down 18-15 midway through the first half and went to the break still down by three. 17 of the Vikings' 29 points before intermission came at the free throw line. The officials called a close game so Mercer's repeated slashes were routinely rewarded.

Despite shooting 6-29 (20.7%) from the floor, a 17-22 half at the stripe kept the Vikings within 32-29. Suffolk by comparison hit just 12-19 on first half free throws.

As the game went on, offense started to take shape. Repeatedly reminded by Levy to run 1-2-2 sets when they had the ball, a resilient Mercer squad closed within 41-40 on a Jonathan Jernigan jumper from the left side.

A rare jump shot going through the net boosted the Viking spirits and two possessions later freshman guard Rodney Walters, who led Mercer with 17 points, sized up his team's first three point shot in 14 attempts to put the Vikings in front 43-42.

Shortly thereafter Jermaine Emmanuel hit from the left side and Mercer had two three pointers in their last three tries.

The deeper into the half the Vikings went, the better their offense became. Trailing 58-57, Walters got into the lane for two as he drove right and changed hands mid-air to finish off the glass.

A pass to the trailing Anthony Obery at the end of Suffolk full court pressure made it a three point game. The Vikings had the lead to stay.

Mercer methodically pulled away in the final six minutes, using a 14-4 run to ice the decision.

Gary Carthan had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Vikings, who finished the game 29-36 (80.5%) from the stripe to offset 2-19 shooting from downtown.

Suffolk was 0-7 from deep and 20-34 at the line (58.8%).

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