Thursday, February 11, 2016

Manhattan embarks upon stretch of four games in seven days against Quinnipiac

As Manhattan begins four-game stretch over next seven days, Steve Masiello is an interested observer in how his Jaspers respond to intense schedule. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Simone via Big Apple Buckets)

Due to the unbalanced schedule in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, there are times during the season where each team goes through a period of three games in five days, or even four in seven or eight days. It is something that is truly inevitable, and a gauntlet that two-time reigning league champion Manhattan now experiences, beginning tonight at Draddy Gymnasium, where the Jaspers host Quinnipiac.

"I think if you're going to have four games in seven days, you want to have it this time of year," head coach Steve Masiello said as Manhattan (9-12, 6-6 MAAC) welcomes Tom Moore and the Bobcats into Riverdale before concluding their endurance run with three straight road games against Marist, Monmouth, and Saint Peter's. "Having it in December or January is probably a little tougher, believe it or not. This is a time where your guys are kind of in 'game mode,' so I like the rhythm of it."

One could argue, based on their success in the conference tournament over the years, that a stretch like this would be a strong suit for the Jaspers, as playing a game literally every other day is akin to the three games that Manhattan needed to win in four nights before cutting down the nets in Springfield and Albany the past two seasons. But as lack of depth continues to play a role in how the roster is managed, the rest that the Jaspers have been able to get has been a much-needed variable, even if their first game back from an extended break may not be so kind in the final box score.

"We haven't done real well with rest," Masiello admitted, "and the thing is, this team needs rest because it's the least depth I've ever had. You look at the Eastern Kentucky game, (December 29) we came off, I believe, a nine-day layoff. You look at the Iona game, we came off an eight-day layoff. I'm really intrigued to see how we respond to the four games in seven days."

Across the court, Quinnipiac (8-14, 5-8 MAAC) starts a run of four games in eight days, and continues a period where they play five games in eleven days if you count Monday's loss to Saint Peter's, where the Bobcats trailed by one point with 3:16 to go in regulation before the Peacocks ended the game on a 15-0 run. Although they have taken three of the past four regular season meetings against the Jaspers since joining the MAAC in 2013, this game is no cakewalk for Quinnipiac, and their head coach made no bones about that fact.

"We've got to be tougher offensively," Moore frankly stated. "That's a hostile environment, and they're going to play just as hard as Saint Peter's does, but they do it in a different way. You've got to weather the storm with the ball pressure and the trapping and the full court stuff. Your guards have to be sharp offensively and be real strong with the ball, and make good decisions."

"Then, if you could get the thing, it's almost like three or four levels," Moore added, characterizing Manhattan's defensive schemes. "You've got to get it up the court, then over midcourt and past the first line of defense, and then if you do that, you can sometimes have success at the rim or with a second chance point. But I'm excited for the game. We've put ourselves in this conversation for the middle of the pack, and I'm excited about the opportunity. It's always a fun place to play."

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