Zane Waterman shattered previous career high with 35 points as Manhattan won second straight Friday night in 76-73 defeat of Rider. (Photo by Vincent Dusovic/Manhattan College Athletics)
RIVERDALE, NY -- Four days ago, Manhattan was winless in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play and the subject of endless questions, yet the Jaspers soldiered on.
After Tuesday's breakthrough, Calvin Crawford astutely stated "all it takes is one," further intimating the need to build off the first win of the conference season. And thanks to the superhuman efforts of Zane Waterman, what began as a pivotal homestand now stands as an overall success, with one game still to be played in the stretch.
On the heels of an ineffective, foul-plagued performance against Niagara, Waterman authored his magnum opus in a Manhattan uniform, erupting for a career-high 35 points as the Jaspers (7-11, 2-5 MAAC) scored back-to-back wins for the second time this season, taking down conference-leading Rider in a resonant 76-73 victory at Draddy Gymnasium.
"I wasn't looking to take over at all," said Waterman, who sat nearly the entire second half Tuesday after picking up his fourth personal foul before the first media timeout removed from the intermission. "My teammates were finding me in good spots."
The junior forward, who supplemented his offense with seven rebounds in a 10-for-17 showing from the floor, went on a personal 9-0 run in the final three minutes of regulation to decide the game, in the process setting a record for the highest single-game point total by a Jasper in head coach Steve Masiello's six-year tenure.
"The defensive rebounds, they were just coming to me," he said when recounting a crucial juncture in the game where he took initiative on both ends of the floor. "The ball was coming to me, and my teammates were helping me get open."
Waterman scored 26 of his 35 in the second half, saving his best for the most opportune time as Manhattan stayed within hailing distance in the opening stanza, using a 13-2 run moments before the intermission to wrest a brief lead away from the visiting Broncs (11-6, 4-2 MAAC) until Rider struck back with the last four points to take a 34-32 lead into the locker room. Leading 28-19 with four minutes separating the two teams from the halftime break, Rider looked poised to stretch their cushion to double digits. However, a pair of technical fouls 12 seconds apart, the first assessed to point guard Stevie Jordan and the second to head coach Kevin Baggett, enabled the Jaspers to score seven unanswered points on; for all intents and purposes, a single possession, as Zavier Turner's four technical free throws bookended a Waterman three-pointer, making the score 28-26 at the 3:47 mark of the first period.
The two teams traded blows and baskets for the majority of the second half until a 10-3 Manhattan run, capped by a conventional three-point play by Waterman, gave the home team a slim 59-58 advantage with 6:56 to play in regulation. Rider would again match the Jaspers shot for shot, taking a 67-65 lead with 2:38 remaining after Xavier Lundy sank a pair of free throws to swing the pendulum in the Broncs' favor. On the ensuing possession, though, Waterman struck again, launching a set-shot trifecta from the top of the key to put Manhattan ahead 68-67. It would be a lead the Jaspers would never relinquish, despite consecutive treys from Kahlil Thomas and Jimmie Taylor drawing Rider within one, at 74-73, with 20 seconds to go.
Out of necessity, Rider fouled Turner, and the MAAC's second-leading free throw shooter left the door open for the Broncs by splitting his two shots at the charity stripe. Thomas' hook shot for the tie on the next trip down the floor did not go, and Waterman secured the rebound with nine-tenths of a second left. He, too, made one out of two at the foul line to give Rider one final chance to send the game to overtime, but a final shot could not be executed as Manhattan took the middle game of a three-game set that concludes Tuesday against bitter rival Iona.
Turner was the Jaspers' lone other double-figure scorer, posting 23 points to aid Waterman. For Rider, Thomas' 24 points and 14 rebounds were good for his conference-leading eighth double-double of the season, while Jordan and Taylor each tallied 16 points, the latter bolstering his production with nine rebounds and five assists.
Rider drops out of sole possession of the MAAC lead, but was able to retain a share of first place along with Canisius and Monmouth heading into Sunday's meeting with in-state foe Saint Peter's. Manhattan now gains further confidence going into their latest clash with the Gaels, having done so with yet another performance that reflected their longtime identity.
"I thought we showed signs of our vintage of what we do," Masiello opined. "I thought in the second half, we got to their legs a little bit, and our first possession defense was excellent tonight. It's a good win and I'm proud of the guys, but we've got to get a lot better if we want to achieve our goal of what matters at Manhattan."