Shane Richards' 19 points led all scorers and his eight rebounds tied game high as Manhattan led from start to finish against St. Francis Brooklyn, eclipsing Terriers 71-60. (Photo courtesy of Manhattan College Athletics)
RIVERDALE, NY -- Manhattan has been down this road before, and on Monday evening, they navigated it with very few, if any, hitches.
Limited to seven players once again as the physical attrition that has plagued the Jaspers throughout the season continues to maintain a strong presence around the program, the two-time reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions led wire-to-wire in improving to 2-7 on the year, comfortably defeating St. Francis Brooklyn (3-7) by the final of 71-60 at Draddy Gymnasium.
"I think we did a lot of good things," said head coach Steve Masiello after his team got a game-high 19 points and eight rebounds from Shane Richards, as well as 15 points and seven boards off the bench from Rich Williams. "I think we improved in some areas defensively. It's a good team win, and I'm happy with it."
Following a 32-point loss at Memphis on Saturday in which Manhattan led at halftime before the lack of depth revealed itself in the second half against the Tigers, the Jaspers scored the first seven points of the evening and established an 11-4 advantage at the first media timeout to take control of the proceedings. St. Francis would stay within single digits for the majority of the opening stanza, until an 11-5 spurt by the home team that culminated in Thomas Capuano's buzzer-beating three-pointer put the Jaspers ahead by a 41-27 tally entering the locker room.
The two teams traded baskets for a large portion of the second half, and the visiting Terriers were still within earshot heading into the final four minutes of regulation, trailing by only ten. However, a three from RaShawn Stores, whose clutch shooting in the final five minutes of games were an integral part in Manhattan's march to a second straight conference championship last season, effectively sealed the outcome, putting the Jaspers ahead 66-53 with 3:32 to play. St. Francis was unable to close significantly into the margin the rest of the way, allowing Manhattan to pick up its first victory since a come-from-behind decision against George Mason three weeks ago.
"They totally were the tougher team, the more focused team," St. Francis head coach Glenn Braica said of Manhattan's effort after his Terriers dropped their third straight. "That usually doesn't happen to us, but it happened to us tonight, so give them all the credit."
With the win, Manhattan's record now stands at the same 2-7 mark that it did through nine games last season. But while the majority of pundits have written the Jaspers off, much as they did a year ago before their run to a championship, Masiello yet again reiterated his trust and confidence in his process of building a team to fire on all cylinders when it matters most.
"We don't panic," Masiello adamantly insisted. "We stay with our process, that's all we do. We grind it out, get better every day. We're a blue-collar program that rolls our sleeves up. We're not afraid of adversity. We're lions that love to hunt. That's who we are."