Emmy Andujar and Steve Masiello address the media after Manhattan wins Battle of the Bronx over Fordham. (Photo courtesy of Manhattan College Athletics)
Just a handful of observations and nuggets of note from tonight's Battle of the Bronx, a 71-57 Manhattan victory over Fordham:
- Manhattan's pressure defense hasn't looked better all year.
The Jaspers put on a clinic on how to suffocate the opposition, taking Fordham out of the game with a 48-17 run that spanned the middle of the first half to the middle of the second half, erasing a 10-0 and 16-4 start for the Rams. Head coach Steve Masiello declared his team a "borderline nightmare" to play when the Manhattan defense is firing on all cylinders, adding that the old ways that guided the Jaspers to a MAAC championship last season have started to come back over the last three games to dispel the notion that Manhattan is a paper tiger as they defend their conference crown.
- Emmy Andujar is not just Manhattan's MVP...
He might even be the player of the year in the MAAC. With all due respect to A.J. English, David Laury and Zaid Hearst, neither of those three have the impact on their respective teams that Andujar has on and off the basketball. When he's not scoring, Andujar is rebounding, hustling for loose balls, doing everything that doesn't show up in a box score. When his offensive skills are called upon, the 6-6 senior gives you a little bit of everything, and the results so far this season have been nothing short of impressive despite his team's 4-7 record.
- It was a total team effort on both sides.
For Manhattan, everyone except Jermaine Lawrence scored tonight as the Jaspers made nine three-pointers for the second straight game and third time this year. For Fordham, it was a night where most players struggled. While Mandell Thomas led the Rams with 14 points and the interior duo of Ryan Rhoomes and Christian Sengfelder had solid efforts, Eric Paschall had one of his worst nights of the year, with only seven points on 2-of-8 shooting and just 3-of-7 at the free throw line. As a whole, Fordham was 12-for-25 at the charity stripe, a statistic Tom Pecora lamented by addressing his focus on foul shots in practice, and not leaving until the Rams shoot a collective 80 percent.
- Barclays Center was not as much of a letdown as some may have thought.
In fact, Steve Masiello particularly enjoyed it. Some may argue this belief was influenced by Manhattan emerging victorious, but the Jaspers' head coach spoke from the heart in addressing the Battle of the Bronx. "I'll go play at Rucker," Masiello proclaimed. "It doesn't matter to me. What I want to do is get more brand recognition for this rivalry. I think it's one of the best rivalries in college basketball, I really do. We've got to make it bigger than just the Bronx."
- The difference in coaching on both sides revealed itself once more.
Coming in, most fans, regardless of allegiance, would have admitted that Steve Masiello had the edge in tactics over Tom Pecora. Such a line could not have been drawn bigger or bolder than tonight, when Fordham could not sustain their 16-4 run to start the game. While Masiello made adjustments and continued to rotate his personnel in and out of the game, decisions that contributed to Manhattan's game-changing 48-17 run, Pecora stubbornly neglected to change his strategies until late in the second half, after the Jasper outburst effectively decided the game. With all due respect to Pecora, who has tried to turn the Fordham program around, tonight was yet another step in the wrong direction for a coach whose team was listless when trailing UMass Lowell and Maryland Eastern Shore last month, and overmatched when subjected to Manhattan's arsenal.