Sunday, March 1, 2015

Manhattan 69, Quinnipiac 65: 5 Observations

Ashton Pankey enjoyed yet another solid game, with 17 points and 8 rebounds in Manhattan's win over Quinnipiac. (Photo courtesy of Manhattan College Athletics)

For the last time in the regular season, our traditional handful of observations and nuggets of note in Manhattan's 69-65 victory over Quinnipiac, which guarantees the Jaspers the No. 3 seed in the MAAC Tournament, which begins Thursday in Albany:
  • Defense wins championships.
The age-old cliche was harped upon by each of the Manhattan seniors in the postgame press conference, particularly RaShawn Stores, who extolled the virtues of former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis to his teammates (for further details, click here for our game story) throughout the season. The mindset employed by the surefire future Pro Football Hall of Famer was not lost on the Jaspers, who used the basketball equivalent of a goal line stand in the final seconds to hold Quinnipiac off. "We're leaving a foundation for the younger guys," Stores emphatically declared. "We let them know defense wins games. That's the culture Coach Mas taught us in our first year here."
  • Ashton Pankey just might be Manhattan's most valuable player of late.
With all due respect to Emmy Andujar, who stands a very good chance of being selected as a first team all-MAAC honoree when the conference awards are announced Monday, his teammate and frontcourt partner has meant just as much, maybe more in some aspects, to the Jaspers' late-season surge. With 17 points on Sunday, Pankey went into double figures for the thirteenth consecutive game, and fifteenth in his last sixteen contests. Andujar and Shane Richards will almost certainly get their share of offensive opportunities, but when Pankey; whom Steve Masiello has referred to on numerous occasions as the best back-to-the-basket forward in the MAAC, is consistent and firing on all cylinders, Manhattan has an anchor in the middle that will guide them through a potentially tough matchup or two in Albany.
  • Speaking of all-conference honors...
The one player who showed how deserving he was of any accolades that come his way was Ousmane Drame. Slowed by an apparent ankle injury in the first half, on top of playing through a torn meniscus that he has still not fully recovered from, Drame still found a way to nearly end up with a triple-double, ending his afternoon with a 12-point, 9-rebound, 7-block effort that also included three steals. Despite the health scare, head coach Tom Moore insists he should be ready to go for Quinnipiac's first round matchup with Marist Thursday night, the final game on the slate at the Times Union Center.
  • Manhattan's defense didn't capitalize on every mistake, but...
The Jaspers forced Quinnipiac into an uncharacteristic 19 turnovers, something that Tom Moore was visibly distressed by when we spoke to him after the game. "I didn't think we played particularly crisp," Moore admitted, "but I thought we played with a lot of heart, a lot of toughness. They can make you look bad at times through their style of play. The first couple of minutes of the second half were not great for us. We can't have 19 turnovers against these guys, they're going to force a ton of them. Typically, what they do well is when you turn it over, it gives them a run-out, a 2-on-1 or something, and they had a few of those."
  • Sunday's win may have been the most emotional since last year's MAAC Championship.
And with good reason, considering the seniors that were honored before the game formed the very first recruiting class for Steve Masiello as a head coach, a point he has driven home throughout the year when talking about how his players have believed in him, and shared his vision that the Jaspers would rise up to rejoin the MAAC's elite despite a 2-7 start. "When you have guys like this," Masiello proudly stated, "you never worry about where you're going to end up. When you've got great people and great talent, you're going to be in good shape. When you have quality people, you're destined for greatness."

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