Steve Masiello and Manhattan return home for first time since season opener as Jaspers host Fordham in Saturday's Battle of the Bronx. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)
College basketball’s feast week has come to a close on the national landscape, but a longtime local rivalry takes center stage Saturday evening in its latest renewal between two sides in differing positions from a record standpoint, but each in search of a statement win to open the month of December.
For the 111th time, the Battle of the Bronx will once again be contested between Manhattan and Fordham, returning to Riverdale this year as the host Jaspers prepare to avenge an anemic showing on the road against George Washington this past Saturday by opening the doors to Draddy Gymnasium in a 7 p.m. showdown.
At 2-4 on the young season, Manhattan is still finding its way, as many expected the program would following the graduation of a four-pronged senior class last season. Head coach Steve Masiello remains optimistic in the long-term payoff for the Jaspers, however, a firm believer in keeping his team rooted within the moment and living for what awaits in the present. Entering the season, Masiello was encouraged at the potential for this year’s incarnation of Manhattan basketball to be much like his first – a 21-win season highlighted by a 15-game turnaround from the 2010-11 campaign – in that the blend of incoming youth fused with incumbent experience would mesh strongly enough to turn the Jaspers into a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference contender. The progress through the first six games has been incremental, which Masiello is no doubt content with, but the emergence of redshirt freshman Warren Williams and sophomore Ebube Ebube on the front line has already answered questions about how potent the Jasper interior attack would be without the services of Zane Waterman and Calvin Crawford, as well as Pauly Paulicap, who made his season debut last week after missing the first five games with an ankle sprain. In the backcourt, Bud Mack has taken over the point guard duties with Elijah Buchanan and Tykei Greene opening the game and allowing upperclassmen Tom Capuano and Tyler Reynolds to come off the bench and influence the score with their prolific three-point shooting.
Fordham will be making the short drive up the Major Deegan Expressway at 5-1, taking advantage of a friendly, home-heavy schedule to build a handful of wins in what could ultimately be a make-or-break season for head coach Jeff Neubauer, who enters Saturday’s contest seeking a third win over the Rams’ crosstown rival in his four seasons. Freshman Nick Honor has already made a name for himself in his brief time on Rose Hill, earning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week honors and leading Fordham’s offense with an average of 18.5 points per game, a figure amplified by shooting 48 percent from the floor through his first six collegiate contests. Antwon Portley, his backcourt partner, has rediscovered his scoring groove in his first season in the Bronx, and his past experience against Manhattan during his two years at Saint Peter’s will be indispensable to Neubauer and the Rams in what could be considered the stiffest test of the season to date. Jalen Cobb and Ty Perry, each a freshman like Honor, round out Fordham’s quartet of double-figure scorers on a team that plays small and fast, spacing the floor for Ivan Raut to knock down shots on the perimeter and Jesse Bunting – who enjoyed a breakout game at Manhattan’s expense last season – to attack the basket down low.
Jeff Neubauer enters Saturday's Battle of the Bronx looking for third win against Manhattan in four tries. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)
With the background on both teams now in place and the canvas officially colored in, we now prepare you in further detail for the latest installment of the quest for borough bragging rights, refreshing the most recent history between the two sides and offering a proverbial tale of the tape for each school as Manhattan and Fordham wage hardwood war once more:
GAME AND MEDIA INFORMATION
Date: Saturday, December 1, 2018
Site: Draddy Gymnasium; Riverdale, NY
Time: 7 p.m.
Video: Jasper Sports Network (Pete McCarthy, Chris Williams)
Radio: WFUV, 90.7 FM and wfuv.org (Raffaele Elia, Billy Reinhardt, Charlie Maisano)
All-Time Series: Manhattan leads, 57-53 (Fordham has won three of last five meetings)
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
November 26, 2017 at Fordham: Fordham 70, Manhattan 57
The Rams set a school record with 17 steals, 13 of which coming in the first half, as Manhattan was flustered by Fordham’s defensive pressure en route to 25 turnovers. Will Tavares’ 19 points led all scorers on an afternoon where the outcome was hardly ever in doubt thanks to the transition defense and chaos created by the hosts.
“Thirteen steals in the first half, it tells a lot about our guys. We do guard the ball, we work on it. It’s something that’s very important to our program.” – Jeff Neubauer on Fordham’s defensive mindset
“I just thought we were throwing the ball all over the building like we’ve never seen a zone before, and that’s a little strange because we play against zone 80 percent of the day every day.” – Steve Masiello on Manhattan’s struggles against Fordham’s zone defense
December 10, 2016 at Manhattan: Manhattan 60, Fordham 53
A raucous Draddy Gymnasium crowd set the tone for a Saturday night affair much like this year’s edition will be, as the Jasper faithful roared its team on to victory in a performance that defined the style Masiello has instilled since returning to the program as head coach in 2011. Manhattan conceded nine field goals to Fordham in the first eleven minutes of the game, but would only allow eight the rest of the way in holding the Rams to a meager 32 percent shooting display from the floor as Zavier Turner took charge on the offensive end, scoring all 15 of his points in the second half on the way to Doc Johnson Most Valuable Player honors.
“This is a great win for our program. We were on a four-game losing streak, and two of them were just devastating heartbreakers. We needed a win, and anytime you can beat a rival like Fordham, it means a lot. This win is for our president, Dr. (Brennan) O’Donnell, for (athletic director) Marianne Reilly – two Fordham people who are now with us here at Manhattan and lead our ship. We wanted to make sure they had bragging rights at the next Arthur Avenue lunch, so this one’s for them.” – Masiello on the significance of defeating Fordham
“We had a feel for what we had to do, but we were not able to convert against their defense.” – Neubauer on what went wrong for Fordham
November 28, 2015 at Fordham: Fordham 87, Manhattan 64
Injuries and lack of depth reduced Manhattan to just seven scholarship players, which was all Fordham needed to assert its dominance in Neubauer’s debut against the Jaspers as point guard Mandell Thomas exploded for 26 points while Ryan Rhoomes added 20 points and 10 rebounds. The Rams’ 23-point victory was the third-largest margin in program history, and most one-sided triumph since a 36-point thrashing in February of 1986.
“Our team did a lot of tough things here today, and it’s important as we develop this program. In the first half, we turned it over too many times – we had 14 turnovers – and that’s not who we are. In the second half, we played more like who we’ve been and who we’re going to be.” – Neubauer on Fordham fighting through adversity
“We might have had ten guys and Fordham still might have won tonight. I’m not going to take away from any team that’s beaten us, but I can’t worry about that. I’ve got to worry about Manhattan, and what I’ve got to worry about is getting my team healthy as best I can, but unfortunately it’s tough when things aren’t in your control.” – Masiello on mitigating Manhattan’s rash of injuries early in the 2015-16 season
December 22, 2014 at Barclays Center: Manhattan 71, Fordham 57
Manhattan spotted Fordham the first ten points of the game as the Rams ultimately began the proceedings with a 16-4 run before Masiello called on the vaunted full-court press that produced back-to-back MAAC championships to change the tenor of the game. The Jaspers then flipped the game on its head with a 48-17 run that squeezed the air out of Fordham’s collective lungs for a second straight win to help erase a 2-7 start to the year.
“We never got rattled, we didn’t get too up, we didn’t panic. We got our rhythm going and just kind of got back to doing what we do, and I thought they handled it well.” – Masiello on adjusting after Fordham’s 16-4 run to open the game
“Us being able to set up our pressure and dictate what we want, and you not being able to do what you practice, is what our program is based upon. We don’t want your A or your B to beat us. Your C or D has to, and when we do that, we can be successful.” – Masiello on Manhattan’s press defense establishing tempo
November 26, 2013 at Manhattan: Fordham 79, Manhattan 75
Before Manhattan would ultimately reach the NCAA Tournament and take Louisville down to the wire, the Jaspers suffered a minor upset of sorts, falling victim to the hot shooting of Jon Severe, whose introduction to the Battle of the Bronx saw the former Christ the King standout score 22 of his game-high 30 points in the first half of a contest that ended with Branden Frazier’s spin-cycle layup putting Fordham in front for good inside the final minute before Travion Leonard’s breakaway dunk sealed the win for the Rams.
“I told Branden, Jon and Mandell we need 60 a night from you three guys, because that’s the only way we can win with Bryan Smith down. We couldn’t make free throws and they were banging us on the boards. They had 71 field goal attempts, we only had 58, and we still found a way to win the game.” – Tom Pecora on Fordham’s backcourt needing to carry the load against Manhattan’s depth and pace
TALE OF THE TAPE
Guards: Bud Mack (6-1 So., 4.8 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.7 SPG, 22% FG, 87% FT) vs. Nick Honor (5-10 Fr., 18.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 48% FG, 94% FT, 34% 3-pt FG)
Mack, a RaShawn Stores clone with his eye for defense and hard-nosed pressure, is in the midst of his first season as a starter in the Jasper backcourt, but will have his hands full with Honor, the impressive freshman who has scored 14 or more points in every game this season, including a career-best 28 against Florida International. Already a two-time Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week, Honor keeps improving with time and age, and is starting to resemble a mid-major version of electrifying Marquette guard Markus Howard.
Tykei Greene (6-4 Fr., 4.5 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 30% FG, 67% FT) vs. Jalen Cobb (6-0 Fr., 10.2 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 41% FG, 77% FT, 35% 3-pt FG)
In this battle of rookie guards, Greene, who has displayed a willingness to shoot through his first six games, matches wits the more well-rounded Cobb, a freshman out of Atlanta who appears to be a prototypical Neubauer player. Cobb comes into Saturday’s game on the heels of back-to-back double-figure scoring games, including a 16-point outing against Columbia that he backed up with four rebounds and four assists.
Elijah Buchanan (6-5 Fr., 5.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 34% FG) vs. Antwon Portley (6-4 Jr., 10.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.0 APG, 38% FG, 67% FT, 35% 3-pt FG)
One of two freshman starters in the backcourt for Manhattan, Buchanan is still learning his way in the Jasper system, and should be much improved by the end of the season. He faces a stern test in Portley, though, who has two years of experience against his opponent from his time at Saint Peter’s, and has been turned loose by Neubauer to become a more complete player than he was in his youth with the Peacocks.
Forwards: Ebube Ebube (6-7 So., 6.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 41% FG, 43% 3-pt FG) vs. Ivan Raut (6-7 So., 5.2 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 44% FG, 38% 3-pt FG)
Ebube has blossomed as he has taken on greater responsibility in the Manhattan offense, showcasing his rebounding his potential while simultaneously proving himself capable as a second scorer on the block as well as a pick-and-pop shooter, similar to the role Zane Waterman played the past four seasons. On the other side of the floor, Raut has begun his sophomore year in a bit of a slump, and is still looking to return to the form he enjoyed in the first half of his freshman campaign. The clash in styles between the two-way play of Ebube and perimeter game of Raut will be intriguing to watch.
Warren Williams (6-9 Fr., 7.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 46% FG, 48% FT) vs. Jesse Bunting (6-8 Sr., 7.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 46% FG, 83% FT)
Williams, the former St. Benedict’s Prep star described by Masiello as the real deal, faces a similarly-built matchup in Bunting, who has taken on the Ryan Canty role for the Rams in recent years, even down to the battles with various injuries. Bunting enjoyed a solid game against Manhattan last year, and will look to assert himself early and often, but Williams will make him work for it.
Masiello has mixed and matched with his rotations this season, and will undoubtedly do the same Saturday by employing Tom Capuano and a returning Pauly Paulicap as first and second substitutes along with junior college transfer Tyler Reynolds. Capuano and Reynolds are a combined 22-for-46 from three-point range, good enough for a total clip of nearly 48 percent, which will provide a direct attack to Fordham’s long-range proficiency. However, no Ram reserve outside of freshman Ty Perry has produced significantly to date, and Neubauer will be banking on solid minutes from the likes of Chuba Ohams and David Pekarek to match what will likely be an eleven-man Manhattan rotation that will keep the Jaspers firmly in the game throughout the night.
The gap in this category was once a large chasm, but has since narrowed as Neubauer has eased himself into his Fordham program and used his transition defense and ball valuing principles to defeat Manhattan twice in his first three encounters against the Jaspers. However, the wise man knows never to go against Masiello, whose strategy and tactics remain near the top among his contemporaries in the metropolitan area. Having a full complement of players – many of whom he has been able to mold more than usual with the infusion of youth on this year’s team – will only grow further to his benefit.
Manhattan, whose two wins this season have come in defensive lockdowns, the most recent of which being a victory over UNC Asheville in which the Jaspers surrendered just 38 points, will attempt to grind out a 40-minute battle by keeping Fordham in the high fifties or low sixties. Expect Masiello to highlight the emphasis of closing out the three-point line in much the same vein that the Jaspers have done in the past against Iona. As for the Rams, the ability of Neubauer’s guards to attack the basket and find shots against Manhattan’s matchup zone will define the results on the scoreboard. If the Jaspers settle in the early stages and concede threes, Fordham will be able to have its way with the Manhattan defense just as it has in each of the Rams’ past two victories in the series, but if the pressure proves to be too much, the creativity among the backcourt will be what determines the outcome. The Jaspers will not make it easy on Fordham, but the young and explosive backcourt of the Rams will win out over the up-and-coming Manhattan rotation down the stretch for a third victory in four years.
Fordham 72, Manhattan 59