Saturday, March 5, 2016

Siena lowers curtain on Manhattan's championship run

Brett Bisping's 22 points and 16 rebounds spearheaded an aggressive Siena team as Saints ended Manhattan's run as MAAC champions with 89-76 victory over Jaspers. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Simone via Big Apple Buckets)

ALBANY, NY -- There will be a new Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion this year.

Manhattan's run as the two-time reigning conference champions officially ended Saturday night, as the Jaspers (13-18) were defeated by Siena, (21-11) falling to the Saints by the final of 89-76 at the Times Union Center, ending a seven-game winning streak in tournament play.

"I was really proud of my guys, the way they competed, despite foul trouble and basically playing a road game," Steve Masiello remarked after Manhattan was outrebounded 46-21 against a physical Siena front line. "I was really proud of my guys' effort, what they stood for, what they did to represent the uniform and the brand of basketball they play. Siena deserves the credit for the win, and I take my hat off to them and Jimmy."

Siena also enjoyed a 46-21 disparity in free throw attempts, using their size to draw fouls just as much as they did in attacking the glass en route to moving into the semifinals, where they will face Iona at 7 p.m. on Sunday.

"Part of the scout was to go inside, and we did that early," said Brett Bisping, who had a double-double before halftime on the way to posting 22 points and 16 rebounds. "Not just me, but Javion, Lavon, and everyone worked inside out. I think we had an advantage there, and we tried to exploit it as much as we could."

Manhattan remained within earshot throughout the night, not once going quietly until the final buzzer sounded. The Jaspers led briefly in the first half, and kept the contest a one-possession affair until Siena closed the opening stanza on an 11-1 run, taking a 46-34 lead into the locker room at the intermission.

Siena led by as many as 16, owning a 66-50 cushion with 11:05 to play in regulation, but Manhattan stormed back with a 20-7 run to trim the score to 73-70 after eight straight points whittled an 11-point Saints edge down to three. The Jaspers would get no closer, however, as a layup and three-pointer on the ensuing possession by Javion Ogunyemi kick-started a 9-2 run that essentially put the game on ice.

Besides Bisping, Lavon Long was an integral part of Siena's win, pouring in 17 points and eight rebounds off the bench. For Manhattan, Rich Williams' 26, one off his career high set one week ago against Iona, led the Jaspers, with Tyler Wilson also coming one marker shy of a personal best in a 14-point outing. In his final collegiate action, which also coincided with his 22nd birthday, Shane Richards amassed a workmanlike 12 points in the midst of being held to just 5-of-16 shooting from the floor.

While Siena moves one step closer to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010, Manhattan was left to reflect on one of the more dominant runs of recent memory in the MAAC, exiting with their heads held high.

"It's been a great journey," said RaShawn Stores, whose career ended with seven points and four assists in an unsung performance that defined his four-year tenure as the emotional leader of the program even if it was not always indicative in the final box score. "This is still a dream to me. That's why I'm right here holding my head high, and I tell these younger guys they've got a lot more coming."

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