Steve Masiello and Manhattan took advantage of short road trip with ride on No. 1 train to Columbia, with another dramatic 71-70 win being end result of MTA-partnered commute. (Photo courtesy of Manhattan College)
The New York City MTA's slogan is, and has been for the better part of the last two decades, "going your way."
It may not have come easy for Manhattan College, but they can now state the same after their latest attempt at drama in the wild and wacky world of college basketball.
Riding the No. 1 train from their Riverdale campus for the 20-minute commute to Columbia University, the Jaspers were nearly driven underground by a late rally from the Lions, but got a three-point play in the final seconds from senior superstar George Beamon, whose virtuoso 28-point outing helped secure a gritty 71-70 win. Sophomore swingman Shane Richards tied a career high with 19 points as Manhattan made ten of their twelve three-point attempts to exact revenge for an upset loss to Columbia last December and give head coach Steve Masiello his first career 2-0 start.
"We couldn't win this game without that sixth borough being with us," Masiello remarked on Manhattan's radio postgame show, referring to the hundreds of Jasper fans that packed Levien Gym, outnumbering the Columbia portion of the crowd by a significant margin.
Manhattan's ride back to the Bronx was nearly derailed, however, no thanks to Columbia point guard Grant Mullins, who scored 12 of his 23 points in the final 3:36 of regulation in an attempt to throw the Jaspers off the tracks. The Canadian sharpshooter's three-pointer with 51 seconds remaining gave the Lions a 68-67 lead, with his two ensuing free throws a half-minute later putting Columbia in the proverbial driver's seat with a three-point advantage, but Manhattan refused to give in.
Following an off-balance three-pointer with four seconds to go in regulation, Michael Alvarado wisely drew a foul beyond the arc, but only made one of the three free throws on a night in which the senior made just three of eleven at the charity stripe. On his final miss, Emmy Andujar picked up the offensive rebound, but his putback attempt was unsuccessful.
The Long Islander, who was a surefire MAAC Player of the Year candidate going into last season before a severe ankle sprain cost him all but four games, came flying in from the weak side to grab the rebound off Andujar's miss, and drained a running layup as he was fouled by Columbia's Maodo Lo with the final buzzer going off behind him. Upon further review from the scorer's table, Beamon got an extra half-second to knock down the free throw, which moved him into tenth place on Manhattan's all-time scoring list.
Yet the game was far from over at that point.
Following an Andujar deflection of Columbia's inbounds outlet pass, the Lions had one last-ditch effort with three tenths of a second remaining, but freshman forward Luke Petrasek missed a tip-in at the buzzer that would have given Kyle Smith's team the home victory.
With the win, Manhattan now waits for George Washington to make the journey to Riverdale for the Jaspers' home opener Saturday night, while Columbia prepares for a trip to the Breslin Center for their first-ever meeting with Michigan State, whose victory over Kentucky in the Champions Classic all but ensures the Spartans of being the top-ranked team in the nation next Monday when the new polls are released.
"I've never enjoyed New York trains as much as I will tonight," a jubilant Masiello said after the game. "It's going to be like New Year's Eve on that 1 train."
Let the party begin.