Honored in pregame ceremony for his 100th career win last week at Niagara, Steve Masiello started first step toward next hundred on Saturday as his Manhattan team held on to defeat Marist. (Photo by Vincent Dusovic/Manhattan College Athletics)
RIVERDALE, NY -- Manhattan started February on a winning note, as a three-pointer by Zane Waterman with 12 seconds remaining in regulation gave the Jaspers a 68-67 victory over Marist. Following a postgame press conference in which Steve Masiello declared it was "time for Manhattan to be Manhattan," we leave you with a handful of takeaways from a night at Draddy Gymnasium where the home team moved out of the basement and into tenth place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings:
1) Overcoming adversity.
Masiello referenced his team's struggles following their January 22 loss to Siena, and the Jaspers responded Saturday night by coming right back and counterpunching Marist following a 16-4 run that helped the Red Foxes wipe out a nine-point halftime deficit.
"It's taking us some time to figure it out, a little longer than I thought," he said of the adjustment period as Manhattan has endured their bumps in the road. "I think they learned from Siena. They learned from Canisius. The biggest issue I have with this team right now is there are certain nights I recognize us, and there are other nights I'm like, 'what's going on here?' Tonight was a night I recognized us defensively."
2) Emotional investment.
"Obviously, we needed a win," Masiello admitted as Manhattan began a three-game homestand that concludes with a pair of top-four opponents coming to Riverdale next weekend in Monmouth on Friday and Saint Peter's; who owns a three-game win streak over the Jaspers, on Sunday.
"The thing I'm the proudest of with these guys is we had two-and-a-half days of the best practices and walkthroughs, from a defensive preparation standpoint, that we've had all year," he elaborated. "We changed some things, we did some things, and they listened to every word that was said."
However, there is still the specter of being able to make a complete return to the longstanding program culture, something that was also addressed.
"The issue I have them is they need to have my intensity every play," said Masiello. "I'm not saying that to put me on a pedestal, I'm simply saying that's what we're used to here. We're used to having 15 men that, at all times, are on guard, ready to go and win a basketball game, no matter what. We're not there from an emotional standpoint, and that's something we're going to work on a lot this week, emotional investment into things."
3) Preparing for Monmouth.
The Jaspers battled the MAAC leaders at the OceanFirst Bank Center on January 20, remaining within earshot for most of the night before ultimately succumbing to an 82-71 defeat in West Long Branch. However, neither the valiant effort, nor Monmouth's 0-3 record at Draddy, are factors that give the home team a better chance to pull off an upset.
"If you even think that for one second, you will lose by 25 at home," a blunt Masiello stated. "If it's not broken, break it and make it better. You can't let human nature take its course, because if it does, it'll bring you down. For us, it's about we lost. That's it. We didn't play them tough. They're playing much better basketball, and I just hope we can keep it competitive."
4) Remember this name: Richie Mitchell.
The sophomore guard has blossomed into an effective rotation piece for Marist, and scored nine points off the bench while playing alongside Khallid Hart; against whom he practices one-on-one before each game, something that has undoubtedly had an indelible effect on his own ever-developing skill set.
"He gave us a lot of good minutes," said head coach Mike Maker of his burgeoning backcourt talent. "He can get by his man and he can also keep the guy he's guarding in front. He's getting better and better. It's tough to get comfortable the way we play in year one, but he's done a good job."
5) Optimism is still abound in Poughkeepsie.
Maker admitted his team does not look like one with only six wins to its credit, and the Red Foxes proved that by fighting back from a first half where they looked overmatched, coming out of the intermission on a 16-4 run and serving as the primary aggressor through the majority of the second half before Waterman's game-winning triple.
"I'm optimistic they'll give everything they have," said Maker of Marist's seven remaining contests before the MAAC Tournament, a stretch that begins with Fairfield coming to McCann Arena on Thursday in the first of five home games over the month of February. "We're getting better, we just aren't getting the results. We're still very much a young basketball team, minus Khallid Hart and sometimes our youth shows, but it's not for a lack of will or anything like that. The guys are doing exactly what we're asking them to do, so I'm really proud of them from that standpoint."