Shane Richards scored all 20 of his points in second half as Manhattan ended two-game losing streak with 79-70 win over Fairfield. (Photo courtesy of Manhattan College Athletics)
Less than 48 hours removed from a hard-fought loss to Iona, Manhattan's subsequent effort may not necessarily have been a must-win situation, yet the reigning MAAC champions reacted as if it were.
An 11-2 run to open the second half, followed by a 17-4 spurt later on in the final stanza, was enough for the Jaspers (13-12, 10-6 MAAC) to end a two-game losing streak, eclipsing Fairfield (6-20, 4-12) by the final of 79-70 in Manhattan's penultimate home game of the season.
"The guys really had edge to them," said Steve Masiello after the game, "which is what I wanted to see. We came out with a great purpose, and we played the game, I thought, for 40 minutes tonight, and did a terrific job."
Emmy Andujar led the Jaspers with 22 points, the tenth time this season in which the senior forward has broken the 20-point plateau, while Shane Richards contributed 20 points of his own, all in the second half, as Manhattan's potent offense proved to be too much for Fairfield to overcome down the stretch.
"I had those three fouls," Richards said of his first half before exploding out of the gates after the intermission. "The second half, I think I hit the first one, and I kind of just kept rolling from there."
Fairfield, who defeated the Jaspers on December 5 behind the shooting of Marcus Gilbert; who today led all scorers with 24 points, kept the Jaspers at arm's length through the first half, using a 9-4 run in the final 2:56 of the opening period to forge a 33-all tie going into the locker room. But despite a 57 percent shooting effort after the intermission, the Stags were simply unable to overcome both the long range display of Richards; who connected on four of Manhattan's five three-pointers to end the game, and the Jaspers' transition defense, which turned 20 Fairfield turnovers into 26 points.
"We're going turn you over and get more possessions," Masiello said of the effort on the defensive end. "We have to do something with those possessions. Tonight, we did."