Postgame audio - Coach Howie Levy:
Howie Levy had a right to be pessimistic preceding Mercer County Community College's second basketball game of the season. Not the Pete Carril version of over-exagerated for effect pessimism, either.
His legitimate pessimism was grounded in what had transpired the previous afternoon. The Vikings (1-1) had opened 2011-12 with a horrific first half and a beastly initial showing, held to six points in the nascent 20 minutes of what would end as a 61-25 loss to CCRI.
"Guys weren't ready to play. Some guys showed up late for the game," Levy said of a Saturday to forget. "Just a real horrible performance."
Sunday was a completely different story, the sort of tough half court victory that can get a ramshackle lineup to buy in to the type of basketball their coach believes in.
Mercer scored the day's first seven points, opened up a 17-5 lead and knocked off Borough of Manhattan Community College 58-49, closing day two of the Mercer/Burlington Classic.
"You hate to lose a game to learn lessons but it seemed like a lot better between yesterday and today," said a surprised Levy after the win. "A real good turnaround."
A week ago Levy's roster totaled 18. Preseason injuries, academic issues and a pair of additional afflictions during this weekend's games have already whittled that number down to seven useful bodies.
"We had a starting backcourt that I think was very good potentially. One of the guys got hurt and the other we found out is not eligible until second semester," Levy said. "We were sort of building our team around them."
Playing guys he didn't expect to play and asking them to do things they had rarely done, MCCC dissolved their coach's presupposed pessimism.
Marvin Champ had 19 points to lead the Vikings, knocking down four three point shots. "If we didn't have to play him I probably wouldn't have," Levy admitted. "I haven't seen that in practice. Hopefully that's something to build on."
Brandin Youngblood stroked a three point shot from the right wing on Mercer's first offensive possession and the Vikings equalled yesterday's anemic first half point total in the first six minutes.
While MCCC was not putting on an offensive clinic, their defensive effort was giving Manhattan fits. It took almost seven minutes for the Panthers to score and the visitors' first field goal came at the 10:18 mark.
Trailing by 12 following a well-squared post jumper from Andre Washington, BMCC closed to within five due to full court man to man pressure and repeated trips to the free throw line.
Champ's deep left corner jumper gave Mercer as many points in 19 minutes as they scored in 40 the prior time out and also provided breathing room. The Vikings went to the half leading 27-18.
Washington's free throw early in the second frame offered Mercer their largest lead to date at 13.
In a game with 48 combined whistles, Manhattan was able to again combine pressure defense and trips to the stripe into a 38-35 game with under 10 minutes remaining.
It was the Vikings who used a variation on this script to put their first victory away. Youngblood exploded to his left and was fouled at the rim. Following Champ taking a charge Mercer added four free throws and a coast to coast dip from Champ off a steal to make it a 46-35 count.
When Champ connected up top a one possession game had become a 14 point MCCC advantage. An energetic and involved Viking bench including a preponderance of players in street clothes cheered as an unexpected 24 hour turnaround was complete.
"It is the best medicine to get out there and play again," Levy said. "To have a game like this where all seven guys contributed, the only way to win is to play the way I want them to play and they really came through."