A stoic Steve Masiello looks on as his Manhattan team squanders 15-point lead to Canisius in Jaspers' MAAC opener. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)
RIVERDALE, NY -- Thrust into conference play less than four days removed from a humbling loss to West Virginia, Manhattan looked for 35 minutes like they were far removed from the 108-61 defeat they suffered Monday night in Morgantown.
However, the Jaspers could ultimately not hold on to a lead that ballooned to as many as 15 points, converting only three field goal attempts over the final 11 minutes of an excruciating 77-76 loss to Canisius at Draddy Gymnasium Friday night in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference opener for both teams.
After ending the first half on a 14-3 run that culminated with back-to-back three-pointers from freshman Na'Quan Council, the first one beating the shot clock prior to his ensuing shot leaving his hands just before the halftime buzzer, Manhattan (2-5, 0-1 MAAC) seemed to be in cruise control minutes into the final stanza, but were quickly turned on their heels as a result of a 14-5 spurt initiated by Canisius, who pulled within two possessions with 12:05 remaining in regulation.
The Jasper cushion would stay in single digits for the duration of the evening, until a 13-2 run by the Golden Griffins (3-4, 1-0 MAAC) pushed the visitors ahead by a 73-67 count with 2:41 to play. Manhattan would score the next five points to draw within one, but were turned back briefly by a Kiefer Douse layup with 61 seconds on the clock. Tom Capuano's jumper on the ensuing possession; which snapped a field goal drought of nearly six minutes, made it a one-point game again, but Canisius' Phil Valenti sank both free throws that stemmed from a Capuano foul.
Trailing 77-74 at that point, Zavier Turner; whose 19 points led the home team, converted a layup that ultimately proved to be the final points of the night, but not without one last twist in the plot. After being fouled by Tyler Wilson with 15 ticks to go, freshman point guard Malik Johnson; who entered Friday's contest having made nine of his first ten attempts from the charity stripe to begin his collegiate career, missed both shots to give the Jaspers one last chance to escape with a victory. Turner attempted to drive inside and draw a foul, eschewing an open Zane Waterman in the lane, and was stripped by Kassius Robertson to end the game.
Manhattan's final possession, where Zavier Turner attempted to provide game-winning basket, but to no avail. (Video footage courtesy of Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)
"We tried to get Z and Zane in a ball screen with a slip," head coach Steve Masiello recounted as he described his intent for the final possession. "They were switching everything, they switched Valenti on to him, he went out and kind of got in the path of him trying to turn the corner. He turned the corner and he tied him up."
Jermaine Crumpton led the Griffs with a career-high 26 points and nine rebounds, with Robertson also accounting for 20 points of his own. For the Jaspers, Calvin Crawford and Zavier Peart contributed 12 and 10 points, respectively, to supplement Turner's production.
Manhattan will look to right the ship Sunday afternoon, when the Jaspers will face Saint Peter's, who swept the Jaspers last season. Tipoff at the Yanitelli Center is slated for 2 p.m.