Zavier Turner, assistant coach RaShawn Stores and Steve Masiello embrace following Manhattan's win over Fordham in 109th Battle of the Bronx. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)
A handful of observations from the Manhattan end of the bench following the Jaspers' 60-53 victory over Fordham in the 109th Battle of the Bronx, snapping a four-game losing streak:
1) A vintage defensive effort for the Jaspers.
Holding an opponent to 53 points and 32 percent from the floor is straight out of the Steve Masiello textbook, and as the game went on, Manhattan's performance on their reputed side of the basketball only grew stronger.
"I thought we defended very well tonight," an emotional and humble Masiello said after the game, save for a pair of Fordham three-pointers in the opening minutes. "I thought our length and our depth really helped us down the stretch. I thought we had fresh legs going into it and I think it was a great win, especially to win ugly."
Masiello always prides himself on field goal percentage defense, so this is a statistic that is right up his alley: After allowing Fordham to open the game shooting 9-for-15 from the floor over the first 10:51, Manhattan limited the Rams to just eight field goals in their remaining 39 attempts over the final 29:09, good enough for a minuscule 21 percent clip.
2) Z may be the last letter of the alphabet, but the first option of the offense.
Zavier Turner took matters into his own hands in the first half, channeling Villanova's Josh Hart in his own effort earlier in the day against Notre Dame. Hart went for 19 points in the opening stanza while the Wildcats had trouble solving the Fighting Irish defense, and ended up with 37 in a winning effort at the final buzzer.
While all of Turner's 15 points were scored before halftime, he did not get down on himself, crediting his team for keeping him focused and picking up his slack.
"In the first half, things were going my way," said the junior point guard, who later earned Doc Johnson Most Valuable Player honors. "The second half, Calvin (Crawford) stepped up, Zane (Waterman) stepped up, (Tom) Capuano stepped up. When we click as a team the whole game, we're going to be a problem.
Turner may have deflected the praise toward his supporting cast, but his fellow junior classmate bounced it right back his way.
"He's our leader," Crawford proclaimed. "He leads all of our guys on the court, all the guys on the bench. He does a lot for us."
3) Remember when we said Crawford may be the new Rich Williams?
The junior forward gave the crowd of 1,981 at Draddy Gymnasium yet another glimpse of that impact off the bench, scoring 12 points to go with seven rebounds and a key block in the final minute that helped seal the win for the Jaspers. And much like Williams did the past two seasons, the player Masiello once called the heir apparent to Emmy Andujar actually embraces being the sixth man.
"I don't care about starting whatsoever," Crawford stated. "I actually prefer coming off the bench because I could kind of read stuff and come in and provide, energy, defense, rebounding."
4) While we're on the topic of comparing this year's team to some former players...
Tom Capuano might be the new version of Donovan Kates, a high-energy guy in the starting lineup who is able to do the things that don't show up in the final box score. Already the team leader in minutes played per game, the sophomore justified the rationale behind his seemingly ubiquitous presence on the floor.
"He's our middle linebacker," Masiello assessed. "He calls every set, every bump, every rotation for us, he's getting us in all our schemes."
"He sees things similar to what George Beamon did," Masiello continued, heaping more praise on his sophomore guard. "He gives us a lot of little things that show up in a game that really don't show up in a stat sheet, and he contributes to winning."
5) Trust the process.
Masiello once again provided the reassuring voice in the room, assuaging fears after a slow start for a third consecutive year.
"What we've been working on is just keeping our energy where it needs to be, because our offense will come," he reiterated. "If you're betting against us, you better know what you're doing because we'll figure it out. We always have. It will come, we will get that part. I have great faith in this personnel, I have great faith in this team. I know what we'll be as long as we stay healthy."