Shane Richards' 22 points led Manhattan in 84-75 win over Niagara. (Photo courtesy of the Manhattan Quadrangle)
A handful of observations and nuggets of note from Manhattan's 84-75 win over Niagara, the Jaspers' third straight and fifth in their last six games:
- Ashton Pankey and Jermaine Lawrence set the tone tonight.
Following the Jaspers' 68-63 win on Wednesday night against Saint Peter's, Steve Masiello spoke of the need to get his two forwards going so that Manhattan could have third and fourth weapons to complement Emmy Andujar and Shane Richards. His message was received, to the tune of 19 points from Pankey; 14 of which came in the second half, and a strong start from Lawrence, whose 11 points were a career high. Of Lawrence, Masiello admitted that the sophomore is not where he needs to be, but is making progress. "I thought he did some great things," the coach said.
- Shane Richards is more than just the token shooter.
As he has done on multiple occasions this season, the junior swingman showed other facets to a game that has been augmented enough to where he would be a top contender for a Most Improved Player award if the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference bestowed one upon one of its student-athletes. His 22 points tonight did include four threes, but what you won't see in a box score is Richards' willingness to pass up an open shot in the corner, instead opting for a jumper inside, or even setting up one of his teammates for a higher percentage basket. "I've always had this to my game," Richards admitted. "I just never used it because we had great players like George (Beamon) and Mike (Alvarado) and Rhamel (Brown). I kind of knew my role, and this year since George is gone, now I'm more of a scorer," he said.
- Manhattan's struggles at the foul line appear to have been put to rest...
Especially in the last five minutes of a game. Over the Jaspers' last six contests, in which they are 5-1, Manhattan has connected on 42 of 54 attempts from the charity stripe over the final five minutes, good enough for a 78 percent clip. Compare that to their opponents, and you will see a 25 percent swing, as teams who have faced the Jaspers in their last six contests are a mere 16-for-30, or 53 percent, from the free throw line.
- The Jaspers had a productive night on both sides of the ball.
- There is still untapped potential in this team.
Masiello remained steadfast in his conviction that Manhattan will hit its best stride in February and March, and quickly dismissed the notion that the Jaspers' current hot streak may be a premature vindication of his assessment. "I'm encouraged," he said shortly after the final buzzer. "A lot of people want to crown champions in January, and that's fine. I'm going to worry about February and March, like I've always done, and let the chips fall come then."