Zane Waterman led Manhattan with 19 points and 11 rebounds as Jaspers rebounded from loss to Fairfield to knock off Quinnipiac, 84-77. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Simone via Big Apple Buckets)
RIVERDALE, NY -- As his team prepared for a stretch of four games in seven days, Steve Masiello was admittedly intrigued to see how Manhattan would respond to the daunting quirk in the schedule.
One quarter of the way through their de facto gauntlet, the Jaspers passed their first test, albeit with a little difficulty to start.
Trailing by as many as 13 points late in the first half, Manhattan (10-12, 7-6 MAAC) stormed out of the locker room on an 18-5 run to begin the second half, a period in which they scored 53 points and shot a blistering 71 percent (17-for-24) from the floor, to defeat Quinnipiac (8-15, 5-9 MAAC) by the final of 84-77 at Draddy Gymnasium.
"I thought it was our best win of the year, for a variety of reasons," Masiello proclaimed. "I thought we trusted the process more than we ever have. I was so proud of this team because we didn't shoot it well in the first half, (but) grinded it out, made some adjustments at halftime, and we just kind of got into it."
Five Jaspers registered double-figure point totals, paced by Zane Waterman's 19, which; coupled with his 11 rebounds, gave the sophomore forward his second double-double of the season. Calvin Crawford and Rich Williams each tallied 18 points off the bench as Manhattan was able to combat an aggressive interior attack by outscoring Quinnipiac in the paint by a 32-22 margin.
"I'm just getting more comfortable playing with these guys," said Waterman, whose scoring average has ballooned to 11.2 points per game, third on the team. "I know my role better. Coach has emphasized me rebounding. The points will come."
"These guys are both good players," Masiello followed up, assessing Waterman and Crawford. "When they play hard and they don't worry about mistakes, they just worry about (the) next play, they're going to be fine. As long as you give an effort on defense and you're in your rotations, I don't worry about anything, and neither should you."
Trailing 40-27 with 1:27 to play before halftime after Quinnipiac took advantage of Manhattan's early shooting woes, the Jaspers scored 12 unanswered points between the end of the first half and beginning of the second, needing only 3:39 in which to do it. Layups by Waterman and RaShawn Stores, (15 points) the latter narrowly beat the buzzer to sound the intermission, brought the home team within single digits going into the locker room, at 40-31. Nine seconds removed from returning to action, a Crawford layup continued the run before Shane Richards (12 points, 7 assists) stole a Giovanni McLean pass and fed Stores for a three-pointer on the left wing. Following a Stores free throw, Richards would feed Williams for an alley-oop, electrifying the crowd and bringing Manhattan within one, before Williams struck again on a transition basket a minute later, prompting Bobcats coach Tom Moore to call timeout trailing 44-43.
"I was really upset with the last four possessions of the first half," Moore conceded. "We got trapped on the baseline, cowered and turned it over, we missed the front end of a one-and-one. We fell asleep in transition defense on the last play, and didn't box out on the play before that. Four straight trips, we made really bad plays, and took a 13-point lead with momentum and turned it into a nine-point lead. We just seemed to lose our edge and lose our toughness on the defensive end."
Next up for Quinnipiac is a home game with a Fairfield team the Bobcats beat on February 1, one that looms even larger considering a trip to the Hynes Athletics Center on Monday to face Iona appears next on the schedule after that.
"It's a big game," Moore said of the impending collision with Sydney Johnson and the Stags, who are firmly in the mix for a first-round bye in next month's conference tournament. "We felt good about ourselves after winning three in a row, now we lose two in a row. It becomes a big game but down the stretch, they're all going to be big."
All of Manhattan's next four contests are on the road, beginning with Marist on Saturday, but for the time being, the Jaspers will ride the high of Thursday's win before getting back to business to prepare for the Red Foxes.
"I just thought the team did a great job of really buying in and doing the things they needed to do to get a win," Masiello assessed. "A big part of that is these two guys (Crawford and Waterman). They're growing up before us."