Ashton Pankey was focal point of Manhattan's 68-63 win over Saint Peter's, helping move Jaspers to 3-2 in MAAC play. (Photo courtesy of the Manhattan Quadrangle)
A handful of observations and nuggets of note from Manhattan's sixth victory of the season, a 68-63 decision over a scrappy Saint Peter's team:
- Ashton Pankey made a name for himself.
Not that he hasn't done this before, but his 18 points and nine rebounds solidified himself as one of the conference's elite interior presences. Nights like the one Pankey enjoyed tonight will help Manhattan overcome imposing big men the likes of Iona's David Laury and Quinnipiac's Ousmane Drame, not to mention the three-headed monster of Brice Kofane, Zac Tillman and Chris Brady for Monmouth, who is 4-0 in league play at the moment. "Like Coach (Steve Masiello) said, I just wanted to establish my presence," Pankey said of his matchup against Quadir Welton and Marvin Dominique of Saint Peter's. "I had to get my rhythm back. Tonight, I just wanted to make my presence known."
- Manhattan has gotten a lot better at guarding the three-point line.
Over their last two games, tonight and their 63-60 victory in Buffalo on Sunday afternoon against Canisius, the Jaspers have held the opposition to a 5-for-35 (14 percent) effort from beyond the arc, something Steve Masiello considered the key tonight against a resilient Saint Peter's team that turned the game into the style they have beaten many teams with over the years. Manhattan's next matchup, a Saturday night special against a Niagara team that shot 60 percent from the field in a win over the Jaspers five nights ago, will see the reigning MAAC champions attempt to curtail the Purple Eagles' myriad of marksmen, as seven players on Chris Casey's roster are shooting 31 percent or better from long range, with leading scorers Emile Blackman and Ramone Snowden launching the deep ball at 35 and 36 percent clips, respectively.
- Tyler Gaskins has emerged for Saint Peter's.
Gaskins' breakout could not have come at a better time for John Dunne, as his career-best 20 points helped the Peacocks overcome lackluster efforts from leading scorers Desi Washington and Marvin Dominique. The argument that Washington's wrist injury, which cost him eight games early in the season, has aided Gaskins' rise, can be made, something his head coach is a proponent of. "He's definitely a guy that we were counting on early," Dunne said of Gaskins, "and I had to let him play through a lot of those missed shots. The fact that he got to play through all of that and finally had a game where he broke out, now he's feeling really good about himself."
- Rodney Hawkins is starting to become an integral piece as well.
Hawkins, who sat out the first half of the season, is continuing to ease into his role and provide Saint Peter's with vital contributions. In fact, his 14 points were the highest total of his career, and his last basket in the final seconds pulled the Peacocks within three points. "Just a little bit of everything," Dunne said of Hawkins' contributions to the roster. "Just more depth at the forward spot. I don't sweat it as much taking Dominique out when I can put him in there for a little while, so it gives Marv a little more of a rest."
- Manhattan is still a defensive-minded team, BUT...
The Jasper offense is something Steve Masiello would consider a "buy low" candidate if college basketball were a publicly traded commodity. "Our calling card's been our defense," he admitted, "it always has been for four years. The key for our offense to continue to grow is AP, (Pankey) and then Jermaine Lawrence. Now, we're starting to get AP going, and next will be Jermaine. Once we get that going, I think we're going to have four or five weapons that are going to be very tough to deal with."