Saturday, February 25, 2017

Iona 72, Manhattan 51: 5 Jasper Observations

NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Manhattan suffered its worst loss to Iona in Steve Masiello's six-year tenure Friday evening, falling to the Gaels by a 72-51 final at the Hynes Athletics Center to conclude the regular season 10-21 and 5-15 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play. As the Jaspers wait to find out who their first opponent in Albany will be, we leave you with a handful of takeaways from a game that turned on Iona's 20-3 run to end the first half:

1) Lack of a fourth scoring option.
Of the Jaspers' 51 points, only seven of which were scored by someone other than Zane Waterman, Calvin Crawford, or Aaron Walker, something that is not ideal when playing an Iona team known for its multifaceted run-and-gun stylings. Manhattan struggled with finding alternative means of scoring, and it proved to be a death knell for the visitors.

"With this team, yes; in past years, no," said Masiello when asked if the lack of an additional producer hurt the Jaspers throughout the season. "In past years, I would just simply say, 'let's guard,' but this team is really struggling with that mentality. When you don't get stops, I don't care how many scoring options you have in our system, it's not going to equate to success. It's about getting stops and we didn't do that, and even some of the times when we got stops, we didn't get loose balls when we needed to."

2) Why is it that the Jaspers have struggled?
The loss of Rich Williams can only explain so much, but the injured senior provided a complement to the Jasper landscape that has been absent in everyone else on the roster, one that goes beyond points per game.

"Rich is a tone-setter," Masiello emphatically stated. "I always call Rich Floyd Mayweather. He sets our tone, and we never got an identity early in the year that when we miss or turn it over, a 'hey, let's get back, let's get a stop.' We've kind of -- I don't want to say we've felt sorry for ourselves, but we've allowed one turnover to turn into two, two to turn into three, and that's on me. That's my fault, I've done a poor job with that, but right now after Sunday, everyone's 0-0. That's how we're looking at it. We understand what we don't do well, we understand what we can do well, and we're going to concentrate on that and move forward."

3) Aaron Walker continued his late surge.
The freshman collected his third straight double-figure scoring night, going for 15 points against the Gaels to bookend a career-high 20 against Quinnipiac with a solid effort at Rider in between, and the Cardozo product is starting to fulfill his massive potential.

"I've seen some good things," said Masiello of Walker's evolution, one which is still a work in progress. "Scoring's always been meaningless to me. He'll always be able to score the ball, but can he dominate the game without scoring? That's what I want to see, and he's not doing that right now. That's what I'm really looking at. Believe it or not, I like when he doesn't score early; as crazy as that sounds, because it makes him guard and dig in and do things. I thought in the second half when he didn't score as much and make jump shots, he was concentrating on getting down and guarding."

"Sometimes when we score, we think we don't have to guard," he revealed. "That's not who we are. I'm very happy that he's scoring, making shots. That's great. But I want to see him dominate the game without the basketball. That's what I'm looking for."

4) Manhattan's other bright spot had another 20-point game.
Zane Waterman backed up his 30-point night against Rider with 20 against the Gaels, and although all-conference honors are icing on the cake, Masiello is pleased with the progression of his junior forward amid an unusually unkind position in the standings.

"We've seen this every day for two years, so we know what he's capable of," he said of Waterman's burgeoning skill set. "I think he's starting to show himself for the conference a little more, and I think nationally, more people are starting to recognize him. We have, believe it or not, there are more guys who are like that on the roster. They're just not showing it yet, and hopefully in the next seven days, they start showing that."

5) Manhattan's tiebreaker scenarios:
The Jaspers can secure either the No. 10 or No. 11 seed for the MAAC Tournament. For the No. 10 seed and the second of three games on Thursday, they need wins from Fairfield, Rider, Saint Peter's, and Siena in order to set up a matchup with the No. 7 seed. Should one of those criteria not be met, Manhattan will be the No. 11 seed, and will tip off in the final game Thursday against the No. 6 seed, whomever that may be.

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