Shown embracing former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani after winning last year's Battle of the Bronx, Steve Masiello knows how important annual meeting with Fordham is for program and its alumni, but treats crosstown rivalry no different from any other game his Jaspers will play. (Photo courtesy of Manhattan College Athletics)
Just over 24 hours removed from their first win of the season, Manhattan looks for a second consecutive victory Saturday afternoon, as the Jaspers make the short trek to Rose Hill Gymnasium for their annual clash with Fordham in the 108th Battle of the Bronx.
But while the Jaspers are riding high after a thrilling 69-67 come-from-behind triumph over George Mason behind just six players, head coach Steve Masiello is not giving the crosstown showdown any special treatment.
"The Battle of the Bronx is the Battle of the Bronx," he said as Manhattan seeks its fourth victory over Fordham in his five-year tenure. "It's a huge game for the alumni and fans, but we're not going to approach Fordham any different than we would George Mason or Saint Mary's. We have a lot of respect for the program and the job Coach (Jeff Neubauer) has done, they've won three in a row now. We know how good Fordham's going to be, we know they're going to be ready, we know they're going to want it, so we just have to go out and see what we can do."
The Jasper defense put on a clinic for the ages against George Mason, forcing a season-high 25 turnovers, the most miscues caused by a Jasper opponent since Manhattan rendered Niagara into the same number in February 2014, one month before the first of two straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championships was brought to Riverdale. Their grind-it-out approach in the second half against the Patriots is a direct contrast to the improved offense of Fordham, who has scored 70 or more points in every game this season, going for 80 or better in each of their past two contests while the Jaspers set their high-water mark for the season on Wednesday.
Masiello hinted in his postgame press conference Wednesday that his team would again be shorthanded, but did not go into detail regarding injuries. Regardless, he has gotten his team to push themselves beyond their limits yet again through just three games this season, maybe even more so than the coach may have envisioned amid numerous injuries that have compromised the Jaspers' abundance of depth. And although Wednesday's win may be a step in the right direction as Manhattan progresses heading into conference play, the supposed momentum boost is not as big as it may seem on paper, but that is due to the unique winning culture that has been cultivated and fermented over the years.
"I think it's always good to get a win," Masiello conceded, "but we just do things different here. We really do, and I'm not just saying that. Our checkpoints aren't the same as the public's checkpoints. Our checkpoints are our deflections and our field goal percentage defense. You always want to win and learn, but I don't think it's momentum because we approach every game as if it's a new game."