NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – A busy week for the Manchester University men's basketball team couldn't have started off on much better of a note Monday, Jan. 16.
Faced with three contests in six days, Coach Gerad Good's squad used a late first half run to its benefit and knocked off D3Hoops.com No. 9-ranked North Park University of Illinois 89-77 in front of better than 200 happy fans at Stauffer-Wolfe Arena.
The two sides, who played right before the New Year's Day holiday in Chicago, Ill., with a nip-and-tuck decision going to the Vikings by a 93-84 count, went back and forth early. A 7-0 run for the Black and Gold that began with just over three minutes left in the opening frame gave them a lead they wouldn't relinquish. MU, improving to 5-10, held as large as a 13-point advantage in the second 20 minutes before NPU, who dipped to 12-3, cut it to as little as five. However, Good's squad held steady and managed to stave off the Vikings 89-77.
"We were just able to make stops when we needed them," Good said. "It also was important for us to control us … when I say that I think at this time of year it comes down to which team won't beat itself, and we didn't do that tonight."
The Spartans, as has been the case throughout the campaign, had another balanced scoring effort. Senior guard Tyler Alexander (Indianapolis, Ind.) tallied 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the field and also grabbed 10 rebounds for his second double-double in a Manchester University uniform. Freshman guard Tyler Billups (Connersville, Ind.) turned in his second double-digit collegiate point total with 16, as 11 of them came in the second half. Fellow freshman guard Erik Bell (Evansville, Ind.) added 14 points and dished out five assists, while sophomore guard Adrian Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.) finished with 10 points and five assists as well as a blocked shot and a steal.
MU's team field goal percentage wound up at better than 50 percent for the fifth time this year. Much of that was due to fast break opportunities against the North Park defense.
"We've been wanting to use the full court game," Good said. "I think the guys are grasping the chance of getting out and going on offense. We have the speed but need to use it."
The Spartans' hectic span continues Wednesday, Jan. 18. Anderson University visits North Manchester for a pivotal Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference clash in a 7:30 p.m. tip-off.
"(We will) enjoy this win for 24 hours," Good said. "It's not often you get a chance to bear a top 10 ranked team anywhere but especially at home. Once Tuesday's practice rolls around, it'll be back to business though. It's that time of year."