Saturday, December 10, 2016

Jaspers end four-game losing streak with gritty Battle of Bronx win over Fordham

Zavier Turner celebrates as Manhattan snapped four-game losing streak by defeating Fordham to win Battle of the Bronx for fourth time in last six seasons. The junior point guard's 15 points led all scorers. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

RIVERDALE, NY -- All Manhattan needed to get back to their winning ways was to get back to basics.

Coming off a double-overtime loss to Morgan State, the Jaspers simply returned to the form that made them a back-to-back Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion, holding Fordham to just eight field goals over the final 29 minutes Saturday evening to win the 109th Battle of the Bronx by the final of 60-53 over the crosstown rival Rams, their fourth victory in the last six matchups between the two programs.

"This is a great win for our program," head coach Steve Masiello proudly remarked as Manhattan (3-7) saw four players reach double-figure scoring totals despite committing 25 turnovers. "We needed a win, and any time you can beat a rival like Fordham, it means a lot."

A second half in which the Jaspers allowed only 21 points helped overcome Zavier Turner being shut out after halftime, scoring all 15 of his points in an opening stanza that the Rams emerged from with a 32-28 lead, forcing 16 Manhattan miscues in the first 20 minutes. However, Fordham was unable to maintain the same intensity when it mattered most.

"We really tried to attack them at the rim," head coach Jeff Neubauer lamented as the Rams (5-6) lost their fifth straight contest. "We thought going into this game that that was the best way to attack them. Unfortunately in those situations, our players were not able to score against their bigger players."

Although Turner was a non-factor down the stretch, he still earned John "Doc" Johnson Most Valuable Player honors for the game, and was a silent contributor to a 16-5 Manhattan run that swung the pendulum firmly into the hands of the home team, who fed off a raucous atmosphere at Draddy Gymnasium to close out the victory.

Trailing by nine with 3:06 to play after a Calvin Crawford three-pointer put the Jaspers ahead by a 57-48 count, Fordham ripped off five straight points to draw within four inside the final minute, and had a chance to pull closer on what turned out to be the deciding possession. As Nemanja Zarkovic appeared to have a wide-open look from beyond the arc on the left corner, Crawford came hustling in out of nowhere to block the shot. A Christian Sengfelder layup after Crawford's rejection knocked the ball out of bounds was denied by Zane Waterman, effectively sealing the outcome.

"With that little bit of time, we were saying 'no threes,'" said Crawford as he recounted the pivotal sequence. "Coach always preaches 'run them off the line,' so I was just running to challenge the shot, and I got lucky enough to get a piece of it."

Aside from Turner, Crawford chipped in off the bench with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Waterman and Tom Capuano each tallied ten points in unsung efforts, further contributing to the winning cause. For Fordham, Sengfelder was the Rams' scoring leader, amassing 14 points on a night where none of his teammates could muster more than nine markers of their own.

Manhattan gets a week off for final exams before three games in six days close out the non-conference schedule, beginning with Florida State one week from tonight. Until then, though, going back to the Jaspers' roots produced a clearly satisfied reaction from their head coach, who reassured his fan base that all will be well amid another slow start out of the blocks.

"I was very happy with our product, because we had great grit," Masiello reflected. "We had phenomenal, phenomenal blue-collar grit. If we have that, we're going to be fine."

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