Ashton Pankey's 17-point, 9-rebound outing led Manhattan to 78-67 victory over LIU Post in Jaspers' lone exhibition contest. (Photo courtesy of Manhattan College)
The roster has undergone a makeover of sorts since last March's NCAA Tournament appearance, but the style and the game have not changed in the slightest for the reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions.
In their first and only exhibition contest before opening the season against Florida State Saturday afternoon, Manhattan unveiled its new-look, bigger lineup at Draddy Gym, and the result was a 78-67 victory over LIU Post that was marked with the physical, hard-nosed style the Jaspers have honed to perfection under fourth-year head coach Steve Masiello.
"I thought it was a very good test against a very well-coached team," Masiello stated, "and that's what we wanted. We wanted to be tested. We played a lot of different lineups, saw a lot of good things, saw a lot of bad things, but that's what this time of year is about. It's about us learning from this, and the real deal starts next Saturday."
Five Jaspers ended the night in double figures, led by Ashton Pankey's 17 points and nine rebounds, while newcomer Jermaine Lawrence showed his versatility in his Manhattan debut, adding 15 points with three three-pointers. Emmy Andujar fell one rebound short of a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds on a night where Shane Richards and Rich Williams chipped in with 10 points apiece.
"I think this team could pose a lot of problems from a matchup standpoint," said Masiello, who mixed and matched his mounds of depth with a five-forward starting lineup that saw Richards and Andujar, who measure 6-5 and 6-6, respectively, in the backcourt. "I like the lineups we have. We could go a lot of different ways. We'll come together, we have a lot of good ingredients on this team."
One of those ingredients was Andujar, who played four positions over the course of the night, and shot a perfect 10-for-10 at the foul line.
"I'm just trying to be more aggressive," the senior openly admitted. "Obviously, I had six turnovers, so that's something I've got to fix."
Pankey, who scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half, was one of the many bright spots for the Jaspers, despite picking up his fourth foul with 8:04 remaining in regulation.
"He told me 'Coach, I got it,'" Masiello said of his redshirt junior returning to the game after his fourth foul. "A year ago, I would have never done that. We have that relationship now where the trust is there, and that might not have been there a year ago."
"We lost a lot of pieces, and it's my time to step up," Pankey said of his effort. "I want to be dominant, I want to take over the league, and I want to come into every game like I'm the best player on the court. That's my mindset."
It was not easy for Manhattan, who saw LIU Post remain in the game through the opening minutes of the second half by virtue of reaching the single bonus with 17:17 to go in regulation, before a 14-2 Jasper run effectively slammed the door on a game marked by 51 fouls and 62 trips to the charity stripe, but it was an opportunity to work out the kinks for a team that is, admittedly, a work in progress.
"I've said all along, this team, by January, will get it," Masiello stated, "and I think when they do, you're going to see a group of men that can do a lot of different things. They showed signs. We've just got to get that going for more."
"We've lost a lot, and I'll be the first to say it," Masiello said. "It's not the numbers we lost, it's the culture we lost, so these guys have to get that. I think you saw that tonight, and I was happy with how they handled themselves."