Shane Richards' 20 points included setting new career three-point field goal record as Manhattan held off Morgan State in resilient 73-69 victory. (Photo courtesy of Manhattan College)
Before facing Morgan State in just his team's second home game of the season, Steve Masiello went out of his way to remind everyone just how dangerous the Bears were.
Nearly two hours after his declaration on Manhattan's radio pregame show, the coach was proven right after his Jaspers (3-7) emerged from a 40-minute war with a 73-69 victory over their opponents from the Mideastern Athletic Conference, as Morgan State (2-10) relied on seven-footer Zech Smith's 19 points and 15 rebounds to take the fight to the Jaspers early and often at Draddy Gym.
"I thought the road games helped us keep our poise at the end," Masiello declared after Manhattan closed the game on a 12-4 run following Morgan State's spurt to take a 65-61 lead with 3:15 remaining in regulation. "Give them credit, they came in and they played extremely hard. They made some shots early, they got some offensive rebounds that hurt us. I'm just happy to get a win, though."
The win would not have been possible had it not been for Shane Richards, whose 20 points; which included his new school record 166th career three-point field goal, led all scorers. Emmy Andujar provided yet another solid complement to Richards' marksmanship as well, accounting for 16 points, six assists and five rebounds in the gritty victory.
"To be honest, I really forgot about the record," the junior swingman modestly remarked. "I was really just trying to come out aggressive, and just get our team off to a fast start. That was really what I was going into the game thinking."
Richards opened the festivities with a weak side layup 19 seconds into the game to draw first blood for the Jaspers, and added his first of four three-pointers two minutes later to put Manhattan ahead 7-2, tying him with former Jasper legend Luis Flores, the program's all-time leading scorer, for second on the all-time list. Morgan State countered with a 10-3 run to take their first lead of the night in a matchup where neither team trailed by more than six points.
Trailing 22-17 with 8:11 left in the opening stanza, Manhattan ripped off nine unanswered points over the next two-plus minutes, starting with a layup by Andujar and Richards' second trey of the evening before continuing with a Tyler Wilson free throw, and culminating with Richards' third three-ball, which moved him into a tie with Devon Austin for the record. Morgan State would end the half with the hot hand, however, unleashing a 7-2 spurt to take a 33-31 halftime lead.
Ashton Pankey broke the ice coming out of the locker room with his first points of the night to tie the score at 33 before the Bears would poke their heads in front once more on a pair of free throws from Blake Bozeman, who managed 12 points in the losing effort. Down 35-33 inside the first minute of the second half, the stage was set for Richards to shoot his way into the history books off a pass from Rich Williams as called by Jaden Daly on GoJaspers.com:
The two teams exchanged baskets shortly thereafter for the next several minutes before Manhattan seized some modicum of control with a 9-2 run to go up 56-51 with 11:20 remaining in regulation. Morgan State would counter with a 14-5 rally to go up 65-61 before Bozeman was assessed a technical foul seconds after being called for a personal foul, essentially giving Manhattan four free throws.
After the technical, Richards calmly stepped to the free throw line and drained all four shots, tying the game at 65 before Wilson broke the knot with a layup to put the Jaspers ahead by two with 1:53 to go. A Donte Pretlow free throw cut Manhattan's lead in half with 90 seconds remaining before Manhattan's other upperclassman leader took matters into his own hands. With the shot clock winding down, Andujar weaved his way to the free throw line and drained a stepback jumper as the buzzer sounded with 53 seconds left, giving the Jaspers a 69-66 lead.
"That was just our bench being vocal, letting us know time was running out," Andujar said as he described the pivotal last-minute possession. "Obviously, they're always going to want the ball in my hands no matter how I'm playing, because I've been here for the longest and (I'm) one of the leaders of this team, so it went in, and that's what we really hoped for."
Pretlow answered back with a jumper of his own to cut the Bears' deficit to one, but it was as close as Morgan State would get as the combination of Wilson, RaShawn Stores and Pankey iced the game at the free throw line to give the Jaspers, who played their second of three games in a six-day span that concludes with Monday's Battle of the Bronx against Fordham, the hard-earned win.
"A win's a win," Masiello admitted with an audible sense of relief in his voice. "I'd always rather teach from a win than a loss. We figured it out, we gutted it out, and we got an ugly win. I'll take them. I'll take 20 more ugly wins, I don't care how pretty they are. I just want the 'W.' That's all I care about."