Zavier Turner scored 23 of his 25 points after halftime, including 16 straight, as Manhattan scored pivotal victory over Monmouth Saturday night. (Photo by Vincent Dusovic/Manhattan College Athletics)
RIVERDALE, NY -- With less than eight minutes to play in regulation, Zavier Turner was the recipient of a stiff forearm by Monmouth freshman Deion Hammond, the byproduct of the latest interplay in one of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's more physical rivalries between a pair of similarly-minded, intense programs.
The contact, though, sparked a side of the fifth-year senior that had not been seen since last season, and put the finishing touches on one of the more visually impressive runs of any game his team had played to date on the year.
Turner's three-pointer with 7:04 remaining on the clock began a personal 16-0 run for the explosive point guard that spanned nearly three minutes, and was the driving force behind Manhattan's runaway win over Monmouth Saturday night, as the Jaspers shook off a Hawks team looking for a season sweep and walked off the Draddy Gymnasium floor with a 93-76 victory instead.
"Honestly, I just felt like I was taking what the defense was giving me," Turner said after scoring all but two of his season-high 25 points in the second half to give Manhattan (12-14, 7-7 MAAC) a much-needed boost in the race for the final first-round bye into next month's MAAC tournament in Albany. "I wasn't really trying to think about getting mine."
After opening the game on a 15-4 run and leading throughout the first half, the Jaspers fell victim to an 11-3 spurt out of the locker room by Monmouth (8-17, 4-9 MAAC) as freshman Deion Hammond began to heat up after a rather quiet opening stanza. The two sides traded blows for the next several minutes, with a pair of Hammond three-pointers turning the score into a back-and-forth battle before Manhattan took the lead for good with nine unanswered points culminating in back-to-back threes from Rich Williams and Tom Capuano. Less than a minute later, with the Jaspers up by a 64-57 count, Turner converted a Bud Mack pass into his first of four triples on the night, essentially icing the game for the hosts and proving Monmouth head coach King Rice prophetic when he said Steve Masiello would come prepared for a measure of revenge against the Hawks after an 11-point loss in West Long Branch on January 5.
"We ran into a buzzsaw," Rice conceded. "They got going in the second half and Turner hit four in a row. That was the game. It was a two or three-point game -- we went up, they went up. Turner went crazy towards the middle to the end, and then all of a sudden, their defense got better. Manhattan had a great night tonight and made us not look very good."
"Steve's one of the best coaches in the league coming off after the first time you play them," he added with regard to Masiello's knack for preparation. "I knew they were going to come after us early the way they did. He's like (Bill) Belichick and Nick Saban. If you beat him the first time, you're going to have a hard time the second time. He's as good as anybody -- once you've played him -- to come and take away the things that worked for you."
Zane Waterman, whose 28 points led all scorers, posted 19 markers in the first half, a stark contrast from an ineffective first meeting with Monmouth, where he was hampered by foul trouble. In addition, Williams contributed 11 points while Pauly Paulicap amassed a 10-point, 13-rebound double-double that was supplemented with five blocked shots. Hammond's 19 led the Hawks in the losing effort, with fellow rookie Ray Salnave adding 16 of his own.
With the win, Manhattan now moves a game ahead of Quinnipiac, whom they face next on Thursday, for the No. 5 seed in the MAAC tournament, which carries with it the final first-round bye and the advantage of not having to play four games in five days. With the top four in the league having separated themselves by three games, Saturday's victory could be construed as a must-win, but Masiello and his players would have none of that chatter, convinced solely on what lies in front of them and the big picture that awaits at the Times Union Center.
"The big ones are in Albany," he reiterated. "I've said that in October, November, and I'll say it every month. Wins and losses do not determine my optimism for this group of young men."