Monday, February 20, 2017

Manhattan explodes for season-high 95 to down Quinnipiac in home finale

Zane Waterman led all scorers with 26 points as Manhattan posted 95-74 victory over Quinnipiac in Jaspers' final regular season home game. (Photo by Vincent Dusovic/Manhattan College Athletics)

RIVERDALE, NY -- On a night where Manhattan honored a four-year veteran instrumental in reaching two NCAA Tournaments, his teammates reciprocated with a reminder of the style on which they built their reputation as a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference heavyweight.

Playing with an emotional uplift following a pregame ceremony that recognized Tyler Wilson's four years of service, the Jaspers played by far their best 40 minutes of the year, setting a season best for offensive production with a 95-74 drubbing of Quinnipiac in the 2016-17 Draddy Gymnasium finale.

"The thing I'm proud of is we didn't get away from our system," head coach Steve Masiello said, praising the commitment on both ends of the floor as Manhattan (10-19, 5-13 MAAC) shot 55 percent from the floor while scoring 30 points off 22 Quinnipiac turnovers. "We stayed with our system, we wore them down, we held them to 37 percent in the second half and more importantly, 2-for-10 from three (in the second half). That was a byproduct of us getting to their legs because of our guards running and jumping properly. We stayed with what we do, and we did not vary from that."

For the first time in Masiello's six-year tenure, the Jaspers saw three of their own reach the 20-point plateau, as Zane Waterman's 26 points led all scorers, with Calvin Crawford going for 22 while freshman Aaron Walker's career-high 20 afforded the hosts a trio of 20-point scorers in the same game for the first time since 2008, when Barry Rohrssen patrolled the sidelines. Chaise Daniels' 15 points, which were bolstered by 13 rebounds, led four Quinnipiac double-figure scoring outings in the losing effort.

From the start, Manhattan's vigor and energy was clearly on another level, with Wilson's selfless leadership serving as a beacon of inspiration at every turn. The Jaspers dictated the terms of the game almost immediately, uncorking a 10-2 run after Abdulai Bundu opened the scoring for the visiting Bobcats (10-18, 7-11 MAAC) 40 seconds into the first half. A 13-2 Quinnipiac spurt made the game competitive as the opening stanza progressed, but the home team restored order with a 17-4 stretch that gave them the lead for good, turning the tide with 4:04 to play before the intermission on a Crawford three-pointer, one of four on the evening for the junior forward.

Quinnipiac received what would, in theory, be a momentum boost shortly before the buzzer as Reggie Oliver connected on a fadeaway triple to send the Bobcats to the locker room trailing by only three points, at 39-36. But the Jaspers effectively counterpunched each attempt by the visitors to pull closer, none more evident than an 18-4 run in the latter portion of the second half to turn what had been a tenuous one-point advantage into a much more comfortable 15-point cushion, spearheading a defensive masterpiece that yielded only three field goals over the final 12 minutes of the game.

"Tonight, they turned us over, so we didn't have a punch on offense," a morose Tom Moore lamented. "We never guarded well enough down the stretch to stay in the game."

The win moves Manhattan within one game of Niagara for the No. 9 seed in the upcoming MAAC Tournament, a team the Jaspers own the head-to-head tiebreaker over. But regardless of who they draw in Albany, they will be ready for whatever challenge awaits, and complete performances such as the one put forth Sunday evening can only be all the more encouraging.

"I thought it was our best performance of the year," an emphatic Masiello stated. "Obviously when you make shots, you look really good and I thought; at times, we looked like a really good team. Like I said, there's a lot of life left in the body, so you've got to kill us. You've always had to."

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