Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Hampton 74, Manhattan 64: 5 Observations

Even if Manhattan's NCAA Tournament run ended prematurely, Steve Masiello deserves to be recognized for bringing Jaspers back to field of 68. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Simone via Big Apple Buckets)

Our final handful of observations and nuggets of note from what turned out to be Manhattan's season finale, a 74-64 loss to Hampton in the NCAA Tournament:
  • "We didn't play Manhattan basketball."
Both Steve Masiello and his players as a whole echoed that sentiment, as Hampton took advantage of a similar style that the Pirates themselves employ, outscoring the Jaspers 20-2 in fast break points and 36-24 in the paint. Manhattan also looked as though they attempted to go for a quick kill to start the game, forcing up several shots and not relying on their defense to set the tone as it did in the MAAC championship game against Iona. "We just came out a little flat," RaShawn Stores stated with brutal honesty. "We let our offense dictate today."
  • Getting to the free throw line aided Hampton immensely.
The Pirates only made 19 of the 34 foul shots they attempted, but the physicality of Quinton Chievous and Jervon Pressley, and later Emmanuel Okoroba, still enabled the MEAC champions to get to the charity stripe 13 more times than Manhattan, who only shot 21 free throws, making 12. Masiello was quick to point out their knack for getting to the line almost immediately after he found out Manhattan would be facing Hampton, who got Emmy Andujar and Ashton Pankey into foul trouble early and often, with Pankey in particular drawing his fourth foul at the 12:26 mark of the second half.
  • Manhattan's seniors went out swinging.
Andujar, who could not get a shot to fall through much of the first half, still managed to finish with a workmanlike 11 points and eight rebounds in his Manhattan finale, with Stores posting a respectable seven points. Donovan Kates, whose four three-pointers shot the Jaspers past Iona in the MAAC championship game, only scored on one free throw, but was once again at his best setting up the offense for looks that just would not fall more often than not.
  • By the same token, the future looks bright in Riverdale.
With Pankey and Andujar plagued by early fouls, Calvin Crawford stepped up to be the Jaspers' leading scorer in the first half, posting seven points and four rebounds at the intermission to validate Masiello's claims that he could be the heir apparent to Andujar. Zane Waterman, whose 10 points against Saint Peter's were instrumental in helping Manhattan get to a conference title game for the third straight year, made an impact as well. However, the biggest contributor whose tale will go unsung will be Carlton Allen, who chipped in with a respectable five points and three rebounds while Pankey was on the bench, even draining a mid-range jumper. With Crawford and Waterman entering their sophomore seasons while Allen joins Rich Williams and Tyler Wilson as juniors; not to mention a healthy Samson Usilo to team with Shane Richards and Jermaine Lawrence up front, Manhattan still has the pieces to make another long run next March.
  • Win or lose, Steve Masiello acquitted himself well this season.
Manhattan's return to the NCAA Tournament provided the Jaspers' coach with a personal redemption story following the headlines he inadvertently made off the court a year ago. Along the way, he was vindicated for his belief of knowing where his team would be late in the season, stating without conviction that the Jaspers would play their best basketball at the most opportune time. Although the end result was not what he or the team may have hoped for, it does not change the fact that Manhattan was able to silence critics who suspected the losses of George Beamon, Michael Alvarado and Rhamel Brown, as well as the injuries suffered early in the season during a 2-7 start, would sink the Jaspers before they reached the deep end of the pool. Masiello also proved that he could win with his own players, as everyone left over from Barry Rohrssen's final season had graduated last offseason. For the Jaspers to go from 6-25 in 2010-11 to 21 wins the following season, and then three consecutive conference championship games and back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, shows the potential for the program to return to its former perch as an elite mid-major that will undoubtedly retool as Masiello builds off a season in which he deserves a tremendous amount of credit for maintaining and expanding the winning culture.

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