Thursday, January 12, 2012

Emmy Gives Award-Winning Performance For Manhattan

Manhattan's Emmy Andujar beats buzzer to lift Jaspers over MAAC leader Iona 75-72.  (Photo courtesy of Iona College men's basketball sports information director Brian Beyrer)

Down 17 points at halftime, Manhattan College resembled a Bronx rival during the second half of their signature win a season ago.  The result was just a little more dramatic this time around.

In a game that closely resembled Fordham's upset victory over St. John's in December of 2010; one in which the Rams erased a 21-point deficit, Manhattan pulled out a magical final stanza of their own with 53 points over the last twenty minutes to hand MAAC powerhouse Iona its first loss in conference play, none more important than the three that came from freshman Emmy Andujar at the buzzer to lift the Jaspers (11-7, 4-2 in the MAAC) over Tim Cluess' Gaels (13-4, 5-1) by the final of 75-72.

"I was probably the last option," said Andujar of the shot that gave Steve Masiello his first signature win as a head coach.  The freshman finished with 17 points as Manhattan overcame a career-high 16 assists from Iona point guard Scott Machado and a milestone night from forward Mike Glover, who scored his 1,000th career point with 12:37 remaining in regulation.  Andujar's coach celebrated the win both before and after it was declared official.

"We've got a long way to go," said Masiello, whose Jaspers outscored Iona 27-7 over the game's final eight minutes.  "We want to get it back to where it was when I was an assistant."  Ironically enough, Masiello's former employer at Manhattan was on hand for the dramatic victory; as Bobby Gonzalez, who Masiello served under before joining Rick Pitino at Louisville, was among the sellout crowd at the Hynes Center in New Rochelle.

Manhattan guard George Beamon; whose 21 points led all scorers, had this to say following the game: "The way we play, we're going to keep coming at you.  We wanted to make a statement."

The Jaspers made their first statement with a 21-4 run that turned a 65-48 Iona lead with 7:58 remaining in regulation into a tie game before Glover (18 points, eight rebounds) made a free throw to give the Gaels a one-point lead.  From there, an already exciting game took on a life of its own; as Manhattan's Rhamel Brown (17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench) converted a missed layup from Michael Alvarado into a three-point play that put the Jaspers ahead 72-70, but the night was far from over at that point.

On the ensuing possession, Iona got a miraculous floater to tie the game after guard Momo Jones was knocked down shortly after getting his shot off.  "I thought we were going to go to overtime," said Scott Machado after Jones' game-tying basket.  "He put up a Hail Mary, and it went in."  Manhattan called a timeout after the ball was advanced past halfcourt with one second left, which provided Andujar with enough time to launch a three-point effort from the right wing that banked off the backboard and into the net just as the light went off to signify the end of regulation.  As the officials deliberated whether or not the shot counted; the Manhattan players rushed off the court and into the locker room while Masiello remained on the court, in about as much shock as the Iona bench on the other end of the hardwood.  Once Manhattan returned to the court; the officials signaled that Andujar's buzzer-beater was good, providing college basketball with its first great game of 2012 and arguably the best game the sport has seen since Kemba Walker's stepback jumper from the free throw line to defeat Pittsburgh in the Big East tournament during UConn's historic run to the national championship.

Manhattan gets a day off following their comeback win to prepare for their next contest; which takes place Saturday night when Siena invades Draddy Gym in Riverdale, while Iona must regroup from what head coach Tim Cluess termed a "disgrace" when the Gaels host Loyola (Md.) on Sunday afternoon.

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