Thursday, January 21, 2016

Manhattan 78, Monmouth 71: 5 Observations

Five observations from Manhattan's fifth Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference win of the season, a 78-71 Jasper victory that ended Monmouth's five-game winning streak:

  • "They're an NCAA Tournament team."
    Steve Masiello boldly declared the Hawks should be among the field of 68, in much the same way he did two years ago when making the case for Iona while Manhattan was on the road to their first of two conference championships. "I have so much respect for Monmouth and the job King Rice has done, and the program they've turned into being," Masiello said. "They are a terrific basketball team, they are definitely an NCAA Tournament team, 100 percent. I just remember King and how hard he's worked. Before he even came into this league, he came to our MAAC Tournament with Rick (Callahan, Monmouth's assistant coach) and just scouted, watching games. People don't see that type of work behind the scenes, but that's why I'm so impressed about him, and his kids are a reflection of that."
  • "It's one of 20."
    Rice is still refusing to get caught up in the national hype surrounding Monmouth, approaching each game one at a time and reminding everyone that the MAAC's grueling 20-game schedule will ultimately prove what the Hawks are made of. "Tonight, they outplayed us," Rice admitted with a smile. "Tonight wasn't our night. We are going to keep working, we're going to keep getting better. We haven't even won the regular season yet, and everybody's anointing things. Let's just play the 20 out, see where we're standing, go up there and see who comes out on top after three tough days."
  • Although this year may feel different with Manhattan's personnel, the locker room atmosphere remains the same.
    "The process is all the same," said Calvin Crawford after his career-high 20 points led all scorers. "We talk about March, and January's a long stretch, but we go day by day, practice by practice," the sophomore added. "It all feels the same to me, maybe some more expectations."

    In the other locker room, Rice echoed a similar sentiment in regard to how the Jaspers are not only a tough matchup, but a team who hits their best stride at the most opportune time.

    "It's a tough one because there's not a true way to prepare for what they do," Monmouth's coach said after the hard-fought loss to the Jaspers. "You can try to practice it, (but) you can't recreate what Manhattan does. Steve's teams, all you have to do is check, he's been here five years. They get better in January and February. That's what he does better than all of us."
  • Manhattan rebounded from a slow start with a scintillating defensive effort.
    After giving up five field goals in six attempts during Monmouth's 14-2 run to start the game, the Jaspers held Monmouth to a 4-for-20 effort for the remainder of the first half. "We did some things differently," Masiello said of Manhattan's defensive game plan. "We put Calvin at the top of the zone, and Rich Williams to use some length to make them pull from just a little deeper. We were hoping that could have an effect, but I thought our kids just competed. They're the ones who carried out the game plan."
  • One of the game's other turning points...
    ...occurred shortly before Manhattan scored nine unanswered points in the final 1:42. After Chris Brady's layup put Monmouth ahead 71-69, the Hawks' junior forward appeared to flex in celebration of the basket, which prompted offsetting technical fouls between Brady and Manhattan's Zane Waterman, as well as an ejection of Manhattan walk-on Matt Maloney for leaving the bench. While Masiello attributed the skirmish to a display of passion between two teams who wanted a win, his counterpart took full ownership of what transpired.

    "We acted wrong," said Rice, never one to mince words and always one to give a laconic and introspective quote. "You don't do that. Why flex? We're not bodybuilders, we're basketball players. Everybody's got to stop all of that. That little extra stuff is what's going to cause problems, and we did it tonight. We flexed, and we should not have." 

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