Steve Masiello and Manhattan saw 11-point lead evaporate in second half as Jaspers fell to Rider at Draddy Gymnasium. (Photo by Sports Illustrated)
RIVERDALE, NY -- Up 11 points on five separate occasions in the second half and fueled by a 17-2 run that bridged the end of the opening stanza with the first minute after the intermission, Manhattan looked headed for a three-way tie for first place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings as Rider left the door open with each miss of a free throw or three-point field goal attempt.
Unfortunately for the Jaspers, the same door was unable to be effectively slammed on their own end, as the visiting Broncs found a way to pull even; and eventually, prevail.
Despite shooting an abysmal 3-for-18 from three-point range and an even more suboptimal 9-for-22 at the foul line, the Broncs took advantage of Manhattan's offensive struggles and matchup weakness in the paint, overcoming their double-digit holes to walk out of Draddy Gymnasium with an 82-76 win over the Jaspers, whose 2-0 start to conference play was offset by a second consecutive defeat less than 48 hours after an 11-point setback at Monmouth.
"It's tough to win here," head coach Kevin Baggett admitted as Rider (10-6, 3-1 MAAC) placed four in double figures and got double-doubles from Tyere Marshall (20 points, 13 rebounds) and Frederick Scott (19 points, 14 rebounds) in the victory. "This place is difficult. (Steve) Masiello is a good coach, he's got a great team, and I thought our guys did a good job just taking possession by possession and getting ourselves back in the game. Once we got the score tied up, I felt like we would win the game."
"I think we thought it was a three-point contest," Masiello assessed when sizing up the loss for Manhattan (7-9, 2-2 MAAC) on a night where the Jaspers made 14 of their 38 attempts from distance, a season high, before also citing the team's inability to defend as a potential factor in the outcome. "We ran around shooting jump shots, taking bad shots. It's been a theme with this team a little bit. They think the ball going in is playing good basketball. It's not. It's fool's gold. You look at the field goal percentage defense in the second half, and that tells you the game."
The Jaspers started the evening on the short end of a 10-4 run to begin the game, as Rider went to Scott early and often, with their sixth man forward nearly accumulating a double-double by halftime. Scott's dominance, which ended with tallies of 19 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, was not continuous, however, as he struggled at the free throw line just the same as the rest of his team. Two misses at the charity stripe with 2:49 remaining in the first half led to Manhattan's aforementioned 17-2 spurt, which began with a pair of Zavier Turner free throws and a Rich Williams three-pointer. The Jaspers picked up another five-point swing from that same duo moments before the horn sounded to signal the intermission, as a transition three by Williams preceded two more free throws by Turner, who was fouled by Rider's Anthony Durham on a heave attempt from just over halfcourt as he streaked down the floor upon grabbing the defensive rebound off Durham's missed triple attempt.
Manhattan picked up where they left off in the first minute following the halftime break, as threes from Williams and Tom Capuano, who scored 15 of his team-best 17 points in the second half, put the hosts ahead 41-31 with 19:09 to play in regulation and forced Baggett into a timeout.
The Broncs heeded their coach's advice, scoring each of their next twelve baskets in the paint before a three from Tyrei Randall trimmed the Jasper lead to three, at 63-60, with 8:20 remaining. The trifecta was merely an interlude, as nine of Rider's last ten field goals were converted in the paint, and 21 of their last 23 as part of a commanding 58-20 differential in the lane.
"It was wild, it was frustrating," said Baggett. "It's the hoopla around everything they do, and if you get caught up into it and you get distracted, you lose your focus. We did that in the end of the first half and beginning of the second half. Once we settled down and guys just regained their composure, I thought we did a good job on attacking those guys, being aggressive, and finishing at the basket, where we didn't finish nearly as enough in the first half."
Manhattan clawed back after Rider pulled ahead by a 66-64 margin, scoring the next five points on a Zane Waterman dunk and Capuano three, but a 10-2 Rider run swung the pendulum the way of the visitors, the Broncs having a 76-71 edge to show for it with 2:10 left on the clock. The Jaspers pulled even once more after Capuano's fifth and final three-ball, followed by two free throws by Waterman to knot the score at 76 apiece with 67 seconds to go, but what appeared to be a charge taken by Calvin Crawford against Rider's Dimencio Vaughn was overturned and called a blocking foul on the Jasper senior, giving Vaughn the go-ahead basket. A dunk by Scott and layup by Durham in the final minute provided the final margin on the scoreboard, but at the end of the day, it was the failure to effectively uphold their trademark that doomed the Jaspers.
"That's what I kept talking to them about in timeouts," Masiello recounted. "We're not defending. We've gotta defend. I always get concerned when you're giving teams 40, 50, 60 (percent), you've got some issues ahead of you. I think we've got to address some things and change them quickly from a defensive standpoint, because we're a much better defensive team. It's almost like we got to MAAC play and took our foot off the glass defensively. That's something we can't do."