Friday, December 23, 2016

Manhattan explodes in second half to down Eastern Kentucky

Calvin Crawford's season-high 19 points led Manhattan to victory against Eastern Kentucky. Jaspers scored 53 points after halftime in final non-conference game of season. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

RIVERDALE, NY -- With eleven days before their next game and Christmas rapidly approaching, Calvin Crawford left Manhattan fans quite the stocking stuffer Thursday evening.

The junior forward scored 13 of his team-leading 19 points in the second half, keying a 23-5 run out of the intermission to turn a physical battle with Eastern Kentucky into a runaway, defeating the Colonels by the final of 81-54 in the Jaspers' last tuneup before Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play resumes one week from Monday.

"Coach was telling me it was time to wake up," Crawford said as Manhattan (5-8) outscored their opposition by a 53-24 margin in the final stanza for their third win in their last four games. "He knows what I'm capable of. I got some work in this past week, and he was basically telling me it was time to go."

And on a night where leading scorer Zavier Turner was limited to just two field goal attempts, scoring all of his eight points from the free throw line, the Jaspers appreciated Crawford's contributions all the more.

"We had that grit factor in the second half, and this guy was a big part of that," head coach Steve Masiello revealed, praising Crawford's hustle as Manhattan proceeded to run Eastern Kentucky (6-8) off the Draddy Gymnasium floor. "That's what he brings to us, and I thought guys fed off him very well tonight."

Through a rock fight of a first half that remained a one-possession affair for most of its 20-minute duration, it seemed as though the Jaspers would have to grind out a victory in much the same way they did against Fordham and St. Francis Brooklyn. But Crawford had other ideas, scoring the first points after halftime to tie the score at 30 apiece and then tallying the last five points of a 12-0 spurt that positioned Manhattan in firm control with 13:16 remaining in regulation, holding a 51-35 lead at that juncture.

The Colonels would draw within single digits on the strength of a 9-2 outburst, but would get no closer the rest of the way, immediately surrendering a 17-4 stretch that ballooned the Jasper advantage into a 20-plus-point cushion.

In addition to Crawford, freshmen Na'Quan Council and Aaron Walker took advantage of Turner's scoring being compromised, each tallying 12 points as Council set a new career high in the process. Zane Waterman chipped in with 11 points and six rebounds as well, while Nick Mayo was Eastern Kentucky's lone double-figure scorer, registering 14 points amid a 3-for-10 shooting display from the floor.

Manhattan returns to the court on January 2, taking on Marist inside McCann Arena, and while they carry momentum from the end of the non-conference season into league play, they are still making cosmetic improvements to fine-tune their on-court image so that it takes shape at the most opportune time; which for Masiello, is the MAAC Tournament in March.

"The record doesn't matter to me," he said, rationalizing the bigger picture. "If we were 9-1 and teams were shooting 54 percent against us, I'd be miserable. I'm a different guy. I live in a world of 'What do you need to do to win a championship?' That's what I care about. Am I happy with 5-8? No. That being said, as long as we keep defending the way we do, we'll be fine."

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