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FIT 49 Mercer 42.

I had some free time this afternoon to catch a Mercer County Community College game. The Vikings were playing FIT in the second day of the Mercer Classic. On Saturday, Mercer dropped a 73-72 decision to nationally ranked CCRI.

Former Tiger assistant Howie Levy has his team running many offensive sets that should be familiar to Princeton observers. During the course of Sunday's action, plays called "Chin," "Princeton," "Circle," "Forwards Out" and "Georgetown" were each set in motion.

Four games into the season, the Vikings are slowly learning what Coach Levy wants them to do, but reverted back to bad habits when the game was not going their way. "You just have to make [execution] their habit," Levy told me after the game. "When it works, it works - they just haven't done it enough and don't have faith in it yet."

Without a true big man who is, in Levy's words, "different," the Vikings are forced to play five near-identical, interchangeable players, each around 6'2". Mercer has a wide back-up center who was the first player off their bench, but he is not 100%, recovering from a shoulder injury.

Stephen Goldsmith came with me to take some photographs - which you can see, along with some additional observations, after the jump.

"Get back, get in stance, get ready to play!"

After 20 minutes, Mercer and FIT were tied at 22. Both teams hurt themselves at the free throw line.

"Run our offense. It's not about you. Remember that."

As the second half started, the Vikings quickly assembled a 33-25 lead, moving with greater purpose on offense and working harder away from the ball. Cuts were crisp and this opened free shots and angles to penetrate with the ball. A backscreen out of the "Chin" set cleared up a Viking for a simple lay-in.

"Stop trying to be a passer!"

The lead did not last, and with 13:15 to go the two teams were tied at 33. Mercer became sloppy with the ball against minimal extended pressure and turnovers on consecutive possessions fashioned two layups for the visitors.

"Run the play I told you to!"

A dunk follow that would have tied the game was waived off with Mercer down 40-38, the official ruling that a foul had been called on the initial shot. The Vikings missed both free throws and FIT scored five straight to give them distance from the home team.

With under three minutes to go, MCCC trailed 45-42, but could not get a stop, FIT scoring on a one-handed floater in the lane.

"Do whatever you want. Play how you want to play."

"It's disappointing," said Levy after the loss, which dropped Mercer to 1-3 on the season, every game close and every game winable. "It is a building process, and I think right now, the way we're playing is the the way this team's going to be successful...they just don't know it yet," Levy added with a smile.

"There was one possession, down by five, where we showed the most defensive intensity I've ever seen from them. Why do they do this then but they don't do this when there aren't 38 seconds left?"

"When I say something is 'selfish' on offense, do they know what I mean?"

On December 16th Mercer will come to Jadwin Gym to play the Princeton JV. It will be interesting to see how far the Vikings have come over the next month.

Jonathan Tannenwald said,

November 17, 2008 @ 12:11 am

Good to see he's still very tall.

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