Ashton Pankey was one of five Manhattan players in double figures, with his 19 points lifting Jaspers to 84-75 victory over Niagara. (Photo courtesy of the Manhattan Quadrangle)
Following a performance Wednesday night against Saint Peter's in which Ashton Pankey fell one rebound short of a double-double, Steve Masiello talked about the need to get his junior forward going to bolster Manhattan's offense.
The Jaspers' coach got what he wished for, as Pankey backed up his effort three nights ago with 19 points and seven rebounds, one of five Manhattan players in double figures as the Jaspers (7-8, 4-2 MAAC) won their third straight game and fifth in their last six, walking off the floor at Draddy Gymnasium 84-75 winners over Niagara, (3-11, 2-4) who defeated the reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions eight days ago on their home floor at the Gallagher Center.
"I was happy to see our guys get going offensively," Masiello said after the Jaspers returned to their intimidating ways on the defensive end, tying a season high by forcing 23 turnovers, which were converted into 28 points in transition. "Like I said, this team tends to hit its stride in January, and we start to get progress going."
Shane Richards paced the Manhattan effort with 22 points, his third game this season with 20 or more markers, while Emmy Andujar poured in an understated 16 points and seven rebounds to supplement the 11 and 10-point performances of Jermaine Lawrence and RaShawn Stores, respectively.
Taking the court for the third time since allowing Niagara to shoot 60 percent from the field in a 73-61 victory on January 2, Manhattan opened the evening in the role of the aggressor, making eight of their first twelve shots en route to a 20-6 run in the first 6:54 of the opening stanza. The Purple Eagles would answer with a 17-6 spurt to pull within three points at the 8:36 mark of the first half, and the two teams would trade baskets for the remainder of the period, as Manhattan took a 41-38 cushion into the locker room.
Niagara would get no closer, as Richards scored the Jaspers' first six points after the intermission, with a three-pointer with 17:21 remaining in regulation giving Manhattan a 47-39 advantage. The Purple Eagles would again pull within five of the Jaspers on a layup by Wesley Myers, whose 22 points tied Richards for the game high, making it 70-65 with 1:27 to go before the Jaspers iced the game at the foul line, scoring their final 14 points on a perfect 14-for-14 at the charity stripe.
"You've got to make free throws," Masiello straightforwardly intimated. "We did a stat, Kevin (Ross, Manhattan's director of athletic communications) gave me a stat that we were 77 percent with five minutes or less (in the game) from the free throw line. That's our ability to fatigue teams down, wear them out, for us to stay strong."