Wednesday, December 11, 2019

For Rutgers, old school pays off with win over Wisconsin

Geo Baker (0) shoots over Wisconsin for two of his 22 points as Rutgers downed Badgers Wednesday. (Photo by Andrew Mills/NJ Advance Media)

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Out with the old, in with the...old?

Rutgers paid tribute to its past Wednesday night with a throwback jersey that harkened back to the glory days of the State University of New Jersey’s basketball prime, the era of Phil Sellers and Eddie Jordan, in his first line of work for the Scarlet Knights. Another homage was conducted in the 40 minutes that followed, in the form of a 72-65 victory over Wisconsin — the third straight against the Badgers at the RAC since joining the Big Ten Conference — that could be described as equal parts physical, aggressive, and smashmouth.

“Our guys had a lot on their plate this week,” Steve Pikiell reflected as Rutgers (7-3, 1-1 Big Ten) earned a split of its first two conference games in the midst of final exam week. “Everybody that checked into the game really helped us. I thought they were locked in today and I thought we were swarming. We have to play like that.”

The aggression exhibited by Rutgers just several days removed from a pair of hard-fought losses against Pitt and Michigan State was unleashed from the start, when the Scarlet Knights hit three straight three-pointers to score the game’s first nine points and force Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard into a timeout less than three minutes into the proceedings. It remained on display throughout the first half, even as Wisconsin appeared to steal all the momentum on the way into the locker room, scoring the last nine points before the intermission and taking a one-point halftime lead when Trevor Anderson beat the buzzer.

“That’s something that we were really preaching after the Michigan State game,” Geo Baker shared, citing the points of emphasis between Sunday and Wednesday. “Guys were a little bit down, and we fought well in that game, too, but we’re the underdogs in this league. We were picked twelfth in this league. No one picked us first, second, top five. No one expects us to go to the tournament, so we have to be the hungriest in this league. We had an opportunity, and we took advantage of it.”

“I thought when we came back out, we responded well to that,” Pikiell added, referencing Rutgers’ 9-3 run out of the gate to seize control in the second half. “We knew the game was going to be a war. That’s how they play. We were right where we needed to be to win the game in the second half.”

Even when it looked like Wisconsin would restore order, Rutgers counterpunched. The Badgers pulled within three points with two minutes remaining, only for Myles Johnson and Caleb McConnell to spearhead a 7-1 run that ultimately decided the game and validate Pikiell’s belief that each member of his eleven-man rotation is capable of starting, or making a significant impact.

“I think it’s really important,” he said, underscoring its even greater value Saturday afternoon, when Seton Hall comes to town for a heated battle where in-state bragging rights are on the line. I love our bench, and I think our bench has given us a real energy and a real lift. Every guy — Paul (Mulcahy) comes in, he could pass the ball and rebound, made some big plays, Caleb now, Shaq (Carter) has been locked in, Jacob Young gives us a different dimension — I really like our bench.”

Given both the circumstances and schedule, the take-no-prisoners approach — the old-school mentality was exactly what was necessitated to win Wednesday, and Rutgers’ center openly stated such.

“This was a ‘need-it’ game,” Johnson candidly admitted with regard to what was at stake with Seton Hall on the horizon. “We needed it, and we got it.”

Just like old times.

Late toughness helps Hofstra remain Long Island’s best

Desure Buie’s 20 points and commanding stretch drive were key for Hofstra Tuesday, as Pride claimed fourth straight win over Stony Brook. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Although the all-time series lead may not indicate so, the annual encounter between Hofstra and Stony Brook almost always is, for all intents and purposes, a rivalry whose victory requires execution in both its physical and mental facets.

Tuesday’s latest reprisal of the skirmish for Long Island bragging rights happened to be decided upon which side was more adept at the latter.

Using a 14-4 run fueled by the warrior mentality of senior point guard Desure Buie and a refuse-to-lose mindset among his teammates when securing four offensive rebounds over the final six minutes — each carom more integral than the board that preceded it — Hofstra was able to pull away from its Suffolk County visitor, defeating Stony Brook for the 23rd time in 28 lifetime encounters between the two programs, earning a hard-fought 71-63 win at the Mack Sports Complex.

“Toughness,” said Buie when surmising the deciding factor as his 20-point effort allowed the Pride (7-4) to overcome a 26 percent second-half shooting display. “Those last few minutes were all about toughness. Guys grabbed offensive rebounds, which gave us extra possessions, we sat down and defended. It was a great game.”

“Our guys just believed in themselves,” head coach Joe Mihalich added of his team, which trailed Stony Brook (7-4) by a 59-57 margin with 6:32 remaining in regulation, before a Jalen Ray three-pointer gave Hofstra a lead it would not relinquish. “They didn’t panic, kept great poise. We know why we didn’t survive in those other games and we used it as a learning lesson, and just toughed it out.”

Hofstra opened the game firing, connecting on each of its first three attempts from distance to build a 9-5 advantage, but the visiting Seawolves soon ripped off nine unanswered points behind Makale Foreman and Andrew Garcia to make the hosts have to earn the victory. With leading scorer Elijah Olaniyi in foul trouble, head coach Geno Ford used Mo Gueye in stretches with junior center Jeff Otchere, moving Andrew Garcia out of his usual position. However, it had little effect on the swingman, who insisted his versatility and increased comfort in Stony Brook’s offense allowed him to thrive regardless of where he was on the floor.

“I just play where I need to play, and take on the role no matter what it is,” said Garcia, who posted 18 points and 12 rebounds, but was refreshingly critical about his eight turnovers, a rarity for any player. “With these guys, all our positions are interchangeable. Everybody can score. It’s not like I’m just a three, but I do feel more comfortable.”

“Drew’s huge for us,” Ford added. “His versatility on offense is really important to what we’re trying to do. He’s a man. Most kids would have 18 and 12 and feel good about themselves, he’s publicly blaming himself for eight turnovers. When you’ve got guys on your team that are men, that take accountability for maybe not playing as well as even they are capable, or even owning up to mistakes in an era where that’s not normal? I want to jump out of the chair and hug him when he does that. When they’ve got that approach, you’re going to continue to get better.”

A pair of Foreman threes in the final minute turned an eight-point Hofstra lead into a scant 36-34 edge at the intermission, setting the tone for a close and intense final stanza. The margin on the scoreboard would remain within two possessions for nearly the entirety of the final period, until the Pride pulled away at the foul line late and fought its way to loose balls and rebounds as if a national championship were on the line. And for a mid-December game, such an effort can only be a harbinger of positivity entering Colonial Athletic Association play.

“People didn’t realize how tough these two guys (Buie and Tareq Coburn, the latter of whom amassed 10 points and 12 rebounds) are, how tough Elijah Pemberton is,” Mihalich assessed with regard to Hofstra’s burgeoning toughness without Justin Wright-Foreman. “It’s a group effort, and everybody just dug in there. It was like a brotherhood out there. They were playing for each other, and when you do that, you come in the locker room and feel good about yourself.”

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Battle of the Bronx Photo Gallery

Photos from the 112th Battle of the Bronx, a 54-53 overtime win for Manhattan over Fordham on December 7, 2019:

(All photos by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

Bozzella prepares for emotional return to Iona on heels of valiant effort against UConn

Tony Bozzella returns to Iona Sunday for first time since leaving Gaels for Seton Hall in 2013. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

When you spend eleven years turning a program that was virtually nonexistent when you arrived into a contender, recruiting multiple all-league talents and perhaps the greatest player in the history of your conference before ultimately leaving for a well-deserved step up, the first trip back to the site of some of your greatest memories can be a whirlwind of emotions.

Doing so less than 72 hours removed from nearly upsetting the most historically dominant team in the sport? That only ramps up the adrenaline just a little bit.

Just ask Tony Bozzella, whose Seton Hall Pirates — three days after taking UConn to the limit in front of a raucous home crowd — visit Iona Sunday afternoon, the school at which Bozzella coached and became a household name before returning to his alma mater in 2013.

“It’ll be a really emotional day for us,” Bozzella admitted as his Seton Hall team — with a pair of his former players in Lauren DeFalco and Marissa Flagg on his staff, as well as senior guard Alexis Lewis, who won a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship with the Gaels in 2016 before transferring last year — makes the short trek to New Rochelle. “I’m concerned, because (Thursday) was an emotional day for us too. But this is a really important game for us to have any chance of getting an at-large bid. We can’t just go into that game. They’re a well-coached team, but if you don’t guard them, they can make shots.”

Already a proven winner before taking over at Iona, Bozzella burnished his resume by proving himself as an equal to Marist head coach Brian Giorgis at the height of the Red Foxes’ MAAC dynasty, becoming the winningest coach in Iona history before his departure. The list of players the charismatic Bozzella developed both on and off the floor in maroon and gold reads like a Who’s Who of Iona greats, with Martina Weber, Damika Martinez and Joy Adams supplemented by supporting cast members the likes of Thazina Cook, Suzi Fregosi, Diana Hubbard, DeFalco, Flagg, Haley D’Angelo, Sabrina Jeridore, Aaliyah Robinson, Cassidee Ranger and Aleesha Powell. So when he was asked by his successor, Billi Chambers, if he would be interested in a home-and-home series, there was no question what the answer would be.

“Billi had called me and said, ‘We’re looking for a home-and-home, would you like to come back here? Obviously, you had a lot of great memories,’” Bozzella recalled. “And I’m like, ‘absolutely.’ I have a lot of respect for Billi and the success she’s had at Iona, so it was great. I’m excited to go back there, I really am, and about 20 of our former players will be there. I’m really looking forward to seeing everybody.”

Amid all the fanfare and emotions comes the matter of business, the basketball game at hand. Coming in off a 92-78 loss to UConn, an affair whose final score was in no way indicative of how the contest actually played out, Seton Hall proved — more than anything — that it could play at a high level, something Bozzella was satisfied with, perhaps most of all.

“As an alum, I’m really proud of where the program is,” he gushed. “I think this is the best in the seven years I’ve been here, not record-wise, but people-wise. We really have good people in our program right now, and that’s a tribute to our staff, to get these kids and coach them and teach them. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Reynolds wraps up Battle of the Bronx for Manhattan with last-second three

Tyler Reynolds’ three in final seconds lifted Manhattan past Fordham in Battle of the Bronx. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

NEW YORK — Just over one year ago, Manhattan had a rivalry game win snatched from under its collective feet when Nick Honor’s jumper with four seconds remaining lifted Fordham to victory in the Battle of the Bronx.

It took 371 days, but revenge — and resilience — was exacted Saturday afternoon.

Unable to score consistently through the first half and majority of the second stanza, Manhattan trailed Fordham by as many as 11 points with less than seven minutes to play in regulation, but ultimately used a corner three-pointer from Tyler Reynolds with the same amount of time remaining in the contest as there was when Honor sunk the Jaspers last December to forge past the Rams in the 112th meeting between the crosstown rivals, earning a scrappy 54-53 overtime triumph at Rose Hill Gymnasium.

“I thought they were very resilient,” head coach Steve Masiello said of his Jaspers (4-3), who rebounded from an 18-point loss at Stony Brook this past Monday with their third double-digit comeback of the season, adding Fordham to Albany a list already including Albany and Elon. “We battled, couldn’t score early, made some shots, got some confidence, saw the ball go in a little bit, and I thought that was the difference in the game.”

Manhattan made only five of its 25 field goals in the first 20 minutes, as Fordham (5-3) forced twelve Jasper turnovers and took momentum from an Antwon Portley jumper at the buzzer into the locker room with a 22-14 halftime lead. The shooting woes that plagued the Jaspers Monday night were still prevalent with 6:59 to play, as Erten Gazi connected on a three-pointer that put the host Rams ahead by a 39-28 count, perhaps a dagger of sorts against an offensively challenged Manhattan outfit.

But as the Jaspers have done time and again in Masiello’s eight-plus-year tenure, they created offense through defense. Eight straight points out of a timeout — on a pair of threes by Reynolds and a layup from Elijah Buchanan — whose personal-best 15 points nabbed the Bronx native Mike Cohen Most Valuable Player honors — brought Manhattan within three, and following four Fordham points, a Buchanan free throws and back-to-back Samir Stewart triples brought the visitors all the way back, tying the score at 43 apiece and sending the annual showdown between the longtime foes to overtime for the first time since February 25, 1950.

“Before the game, Coach texted me and told me to just be myself, go back to the Mount St. Michael’s Eli,” said Buchanan after his career day. “I just kept that in the back of my head the whole game.”

In the overtime period, Fordham led for nearly its duration, but after Portley fouled Stewart out with 15 seconds remaining, the senior surprisingly missed both ensuing free throws, giving Manhattan the opportunity to win. After Buchanan rebounded Portley’s second miss, Pauly Paulicap drove and then found Reynolds in the left corner for the coup de grace that earned the Jaspers their first win at Fordham since November 29, 2012, when Michael Alvarado took matters into his own hands down the stretch.

“We tried to get into a high pick-and-roll with Pauly and Chris (Hinckson),” Masiello said of the game-winning possession. “Chris came off, he threw slot, we threw slot and reversed it, tried to get one more. We got the one more, and Tyler paused for a second, he hesitated, he sized up, he made a tough shot.”

Fordham still had 3.2 ticks on the clock to regain the lead after a Jeff Neubauer timeout, but a Jalen Cobb three was broken up by Bud Mack, leaving the Rams to ponder what could have been.

“I certainly did not put our guys in a good position offensively,” Neubauer recollected. “Manhattan’s defense has been consistent — not just this year, but as long as Steve has been there — and it was tough to attack today. We did have three options on that last play, and 3.2 is plenty of time. I don’t know that we got a good shot. That’s not the shot we were trying to get, but we can do better.”

After wrapping up its five-game road trip, Manhattan now has two more games remaining before Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play begins, and appears to have had a revelatory moment of sorts even though both coach and players admit the collective on-court product still needs improvement.

“After watching film, we noticed that we weren’t ourselves at Stony Brook,” said Paulicap, who recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. “We didn’t do the little things that help us win. Today, we definitely did, and that’s what helped us win the game.”

“We’re just very sluggish to start games,” Masiello added. “We’re lethargic, so we’ve got to address that, fix that, and if we do, I think we’ve got a chance to be really good.”

Battle of the Bronx: Manhattan Quotes

Steve Masiello’s opening statement:
“Good win, I’m really proud of our guys, I thought they were very resilient. We battled, couldn’t score early, made some shots, got some confidence, saw the ball go in a little bit, and I thought that was the difference in the game.”

On rebounding and its emphasis after Monday’s loss at Stony Brook:
“The last three games, I think it was double-figure rebounding we lost by. We made a big point of that this week in practice adjusting to that, changing that and doing what we’re supposed to do. I thought our guys did that. Pauly obviously had 11, Tykei came in with six and Chris had ten, so that’s basically your three, four and five getting you double figures. Tykei’s right there, and then Elijah Buchanan from the two-guard spot had seven, so they addressed the rebounding issue. We’re just very sluggish to start games, we’re lethargic, so we’ve got to address that, fix that, and if we do, I think we’ve got a chance to be really good.”

On Buchanan’s development:
“He’s worked so hard. He was one of the best scorers in the state coming out of high school, first team all-New York. That’s an accomplishment coming out of Mount St. Michael, so for him to see rewards of his work, I think we forget he’s only a sophomore, to come with 15 and seven the way he did, I was really impressed with him. He missed a couple of free throws, which I think hurt his confidence, but he puts a lot of time in at the line, he wakes up at 7 a.m. every morning and shoots, so he’s just got to stay with it. But he’s going to be fine.”

On Tyler Reynolds’ game-winning possession:
“Yeah, we tried to get into a high pick-and-roll with Pauly and Chris. We thought our four and five could take advantage of their four and five off the bounce. Chris came off, he threw slot, we threw slot and reversed it, tried to get one more. We got the one more, and Tyler paused for a second, he hesitated, he sized up — and I think his size helped him shoot over a smaller defender — he made a tough shot, so give him credit. But give Fordham credit, I thought they really guarded well tonight and did a very good job. And this win is for Marianne (Reilly, Manhattan’s athletic director), this is dedicated to her for all the time she’s put in here. This is great for her to be able to come home and walk out of here with a win.”

On Manhattan's maturation after earning its third double-digit comeback win of the season:
“I think it’s a lot, and that’s what we were just talking about in the locker room, their character, their resolve, their will to fight, rally, stay involved, stay in games. It’s tough when you’re not scoring the ball, and we did that tonight.”

On being on the winning side of a last-second shot vs. Fordham:
“It’s good for confidence, it’s good for buy-in, for the guys to have vision and understands vision affects buy-in. I think when you have vision and you see good things happening, that’s going to affect your buy-in, and then your buy-in from there will affect your work ethic and your work ethic affects your results. It’s tough. I don’t like being down, but it’s nice to come back, because now the next time we’re down eight, which will happen, we’ve done this. We might be making too much of a habit of it, we want to address the first part of it, but we’ve done it now.”

On defensive strategy for the final possession:
“The first thing we were telling them was don’t foul. The second thing we were telling them was know where (Antwon) Portley is, stay down on his shot fake, same thing for (Jalen) Cobb, stay down on his shot fake. You want to keep everything on your chest, don’t let anything behind you, and those were our principles. We wanted to trade off with everyone in our area. I thought we did a really good job of keeping things on our chest and making them shoot over size, and I thought we did that. He got a tough look, got a good shot off from a range standpoint. I don’t think that was their first option, but I wasn’t in their timeout.”

Pauly Paulicap on defeating Fordham:
“I’ve experienced two losses against Fordham, so I’ve always kept that in the back of my head and really in this game, I just came in and tried to do all the blue-collar things like rebound, box out, just the stuff that helps us win. I think this game is a big win for us, obviously we have more work to do, but Fordham’s a big win for us.”

Paulicap on Manhattan's mindset after losing to Stony Brook:
“We just have to go back to doing what we normally do: Play hard, do the little things that will help us win. And after watching film, we noticed that we weren’t ourselves at Stony a Brook, we didn’t do the little things that help us win. Today, we definitely did, and that’s what helped us win the game.”

Elijah Buchanan on his performance and improvement:
“Before the game, Coach texted me and told me to just be myself, go back to the Mount St. Michael’s Eli, and to believe in myself. I just kept that in the back of my head the whole game. I think I’ve made a very big jump, because last year, I didn’t have that much confidence. This year, my confidence is getting better.”

Battle of the Bronx: Quotes From Jeff Neubauer

Opening statement:
“First of all, I want to give all the credit to Manhattan. They certainly did stick with it, and when I say that, they’ve done that all year. They’ve been in some tight games, they’ve been down in double figures at Elon, they won the game. They really competed well at Rhode Island, they didn’t end up winning, but another game where they were behind and they stayed with it. We knew it was going to be a 40-minute game — it usually is when you play a game like this, two local schools — and Manhattan deserved to win.”

On Antwon Portley’s two missed free throws in overtime:
“AP has made a lot of free throws in his life. Free throw shooting has been a focus of ours here the last month, and I certainly didn’t expect him to miss both, but there were a lot of plays like that throughout the game that one little thing here or there can alter the end of the game.”

On Fordham’s effort against Manhattan's pressure defense:
“Valuing the ball against their pressure is very important, and that one turnover we had that resulted in an easy layup, that can be the difference. Now with that being said, if you look at it from the flip side, we actually had ten steals, but we didn’t turn them into points. If you’re going to value the ball and take care of it, then you can win that way. If you’re going to steal it — like we had ten steals — and turn it into more than twelve points, that’s another way to win.”

On Fordham’s defensive effort and what it means moving forward:
“Our defense has been very good this year, there’s no question, and again, our defense was very good today. With that being said, I certainly did not put our guys in a good position offensively. Manhattan’s defense has been consistent, not just this year, but as long as Steve has been there, and it was tough to attack today.”

On Erten Gazi and what he brings to the table:
“Erten’s probably the one guy that, offensively, played well or did some things that really helped us. The fact that he is strong and physical — he can go inside, he also made threes today — he’s flexible. He can do it in many ways.”

On not being able to consistently work the basketball inside:
“Well, I do think those guys did have opportunities, maybe not the same opportunities that they would have against man-to-man, but I think they had opportunities around the rim. Obviously, Manhattan does have physical defenders, but we certainly didn’t get enough production from our interior guys.”

On Manhattan's game-winning possession and its similarity to how Fordham won last year’s game against the Jaspers:
“I don’t know that they were trying to go to (Tyler) Reynolds, I don’t know what Steve said, maybe they were, but he is a cold-blooded shooter, so he doesn’t need much time to get it off. I think we were probably pretty close to him, but he is a cold-blooded shooter and he stuck one in.”

“I thought about that here in the last ten minutes or so. The difference is we were ahead in that game the entire way until that last possession with about a minute left, so again, we were ahead this entire time as well. But you’re right, it came down to a last-second shot.”

On strategy in the final seconds after calling a timeout:
“We did have three options there on that last play, and 3.2 (seconds) is plenty of time, 3.2 is a ton of time from where the ball is there on a side-out. I don’t know about the foul or not foul, that’s not my job, but we did have three options on that last play. I don’t know that we got a good shot. That’s not the shot we were trying to get, but we can do better.”

Friday, December 6, 2019

Seton Hall WBB vs. UConn Photo Gallery

Photos from Seton Hall’s 92-78 loss to UConn on December 5, 2019:

(All photos by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Battle of the Bronx Preview: Fordham vs. Manhattan


Chuba Ohams and Fordham defend Rose Hill in Saturday’s Battle of the Bronx against Manhattan. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)
With Thanksgiving now in the rearview mirror and the holiday season officially upon us, college basketball remains the gift that keeps on giving, and does so again Saturday afternoon in the form of a timeless classic that rarely, if ever, disappoints when it is played out on the hardwood.

Fordham and Manhattan lock horns again this weekend, squaring off against and matching wits with one another in the 112th Battle of the Bronx, this year’s iteration taking place in the form of a matinee inside historic Rose Hill Gymnasium, which plays host to the intra-borough collision for the second time in three years as the Rams seek to further their recent mastery of the Jaspers, with four victories in the last six seasons coming at the expense of the inhabitants of Riverdale.

Fordham, in line with most seasons under Jeff Neubauer as he now navigates his fifth season at the helm of the Rams, has started the 2019-20 campaign with a 5-2 record in preparation for what will be a grueling Atlantic 10 slate when conference play begins next month. One thing the Rams can hang their collective hat on through seven games, however, is a staunch defense that has yielded only 56 points per game to opposing teams. Neubauer has also mitigated the loss of Nick Honor with aplomb so far this young season, sliding Antwon Portley – who is no stranger to Manhattan from his two years at Saint Peter’s – to the point guard position while Jalen Cobb and DePaul transfer Erten Gazi solidify the backcourt. Inside the arc, Chuba Ohams is finally playing like the man Neubauer expected him to be, averaging 13 points and over eight rebounds per game in a junior season that, so far, is harkening back to the senior year Ryan Rhoomes enjoyed as a consistent post option for Fordham. Onyi Eyisi has also built off a solid rookie turn and become a reputable role player as a sophomore, one whom Neubauer praised last season as being the key to the Rams’ performance at various stages throughout the year.
Tykei Greene’s emergence has revitalized Manhattan through first month of season. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

In the northwest corner of the Bronx, Manhattan makes the short road trip with a record of 3-3 on its ledger, the most recent entry being an 18-point loss this past Monday at Stony Brook in which the Jaspers were an uncharacteristically cold-shooting outfit in Suffolk County. Nonetheless, head coach Steve Masiello, ever the optimist, remains confident in the ability of his team – which returns nearly everyone from last year’s rotation – to pull through and reinforce itself as a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference threat. A healthy Pauly Paulicap has helped matters for the Jaspers, as he and sophomore Tykei Greene have become the latest forward and guard to form a scoring tandem that has been consistent with the Manhattan basketball brand over Masiello’s eight-plus seasons. Samir Stewart’s clutch shot-making skills and deft point guard instincts have buoyed Manhattan’s front line and depth, which now includes Warren Williams and Tyler Reynolds – starters last season in Riverdale – off the bench for an extra spark on a roster that can burn an opponent from any given spot on any given night.

We have the background on both teams, and a general sense of how each of them has arrived to this point. With that now having been said and written about, we now set the stage for the latest tango between the Rams and Jaspers, complete with our annual tale of the tape, as a longstanding local rivalry is renewed one more time:

GAME AND MEDIA INFORMATION
Fordham (5-2) vs. Manhattan (3-3)

Date: Saturday, December 7, 2019

Site: Rose Hill Gymnasium; Bronx, N.Y.

Time: 2 p.m.

TV/Video: ESPN+ (Andrew BoguschIsis Young)

Radio: WFUV, 90.7 FM and wfuv.org (Emmanuel Berbari, Andrew Posadas)

All-Time Series: Manhattan leads, 57-54 (Fordham has won four of last six meetings)

LAST FIVE MEETINGS
December 1, 2018 at Manhattan: Fordham 57, Manhattan 56

Fordham saw a 10-point lead slip away in the first half as Manhattan tightened the screws on its defense enough to wrest a two-point cushion away going into halftime. The second half would be a close encounter for its entirety, with Pauly Paulicap regaining the lead for the Jaspers inside the game’s last minute and seemingly pulling out a victory. With one timeout still in his pocket, Neubauer trusted freshman guard Nick Honor, whose sole Battle of the Bronx experience was punctuated by his game-winning jumper with four seconds remaining in regulation, a blow from which Manhattan was unable to recover as time expired.

I don’t usually think about the end-of-game situations a lot, but we know where the ball wants to be. We’re going to put the ball in Nick Honor’s hands. There’s absolutely no question about that.” – Jeff Neubauer on his strategy for Fordham’s game-winning possession

“When you talk about the alums of Manhattan, the alums at Fordham, this game really means something.” – Neubauer on the Battle of the Bronx and its significance

November 26, 2017 at Fordham: Fordham 70, Manhattan 57

Once again, defense was the order of the day, only this time, it was Fordham who dictated tempo on that side of the basketball. The Rams set the tone by registering 13 steals in the first half and vigorously pressuring Manhattan to the tune of an un-Jasper-like figure of 25 turnovers. Will Tavares led the Rams with 19 points, but the story of this affair was Fordham’s suffocating defense and premium for the basketball, effectively rendering Manhattan unable to get into a rhythm at any stage in the game.

“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.” – 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

Manhattan turned the clock back to its championship-caliber defense coming off a decisive loss to Fordham the year prior (more on that in our next recap) amid a near-capacity crowd at Draddy Gymnasium in this Saturday night affair. Much like the 2014 encounter between the two, Fordham fired the first salvo by connecting on nine field goal attempts in the game’s first eleven minutes, but the Jaspers’ matchup zone scheme turned in a performance for the ages by conceding just eight made baskets thereafter. Point guard Zavier Turner backed up the defense with an assertive second half, scoring all of his 15 points after the intermission and earning Doc Johnson Most Valuable Player recognition in the process.

I thought we defended very well tonight. I thought our length and our depth really helped us down the stretch, and I thought we were able to sustain holding them, 6-for-29 in the second half. I thought we had fresh legs going into it, and I think it was a great win, especially to win ugly. I’m very proud of that.” – Masiello on Manhattan’s effort, particularly on the defensive end

Their level of toughness in the second part of the second half, they were a very tough-minded team, and I did tell our team in the locker room after the game that defensively, our guys did what was asked of them. Our defense was good enough to win the game, but we certainly were having major struggles offensively.” – Neubauer on Manhattan’s defense and what went wrong for Fordham

November 28, 2015 at Fordham: Fordham 87, Manhattan 64

Playing shorthanded due to injuries, Manhattan dressed only seven scholarship players, and Fordham took full advantage of the Jaspers’ depth issues. Mandell Thomas led the way for the Rams, leading all scorers with 26 points en route to Mike Cohen Most Valuable Player honors, and Ryan Rhoomes supplemented the outburst with a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double. The 23-point win entered the record books as the third-largest margin of victory in Fordham history, giving Neubauer an authoritative debut in the showdown between the two crosstown rivals.

I’ve been a part of this for four years. This has always been intense: Fordham-Manhattan, a rivalry game, this year another intense game, so it’s fun being out there. The crowd gets into it and it’s even better when we win, so it’s always a good time.” – Mandell Thomas on his Battle of the Bronx experience

“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

The Battle of the Bronx…in Brooklyn? A rare outlier among this long-standing rivalry, the home of the Brooklyn Nets housed the 107th edition of this clash, and Fordham opened the game on a 10-0 run, padding its lead to 16-4 several minutes later before Masiello employed the full-court press that guided Manhattan to its two MAAC championships under his watch. What followed was a stretch in which the Jaspers outscored the Rams by a commanding 48-17 tally to stomp the life out of the Rams and help stem the tide of a 2-7 beginning to Manhattan’s first title defense of the decade.

There’s an amazing stat, and I have to check the number, but something like 70-something percent of teams that get a double-digit lead in the first four minutes actually lose the game. I was panicking, but they weren’t, so they kept me calm. 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

TALE OF THE TAPE
Guards: Antwon Portley (6-4 Sr., 10.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.7 APG, 41% FG, 79% FT, 41% 3-pt FG) vs. Samir Stewart (6-0 So., 9.3 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, 35% FG, 64% FT, 30% 3-pt FG)

Portley has only enhanced the skills that Manhattan had come to know when the native Texan was patrolling the backcourt for John Dunne at Saint Peter’s, and has become an all-around threat during his time in the Bronx. His matchup with Stewart, a rising star who seems as though he were destined to play for Masiello given that his skill set is almost a perfect marriage to Manhattan's system, will go a long way in determining the victor, but the edge goes to the experienced hand.

Advantage: Fordham

Jalen Cobb (6-0 So., 10.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.7 SPG35% FG, 67% FT, 44% 3-pt FG) vs. Tykei Greene (6-4 So., 11.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.3 APG, 32% FG, 65% FT)

Cobb has been more of a sixth man this season than in his rookie campaign, but the Georgia native is still a deceptive threat with the ball in his hands. On the other side of the floor, Greene has put up numbers no Masiello guard has approached since Rich Williams graduated, highlighting the significant growth he has made in his freshman-to-sophomore jump. Look for Greene, a cross between Williams and Michael Alvarado in most of his games this season, to exploit Fordham on every possession in which he gets a touch, and to possibly cement his star turn.

Advantage: Manhattan

Erten Gazi (6-3 Sr., 6.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 45% FG, 50% FT, 35% 3-pt FG) vs. Elijah Buchanan (6-5 So., 6.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 35% FG, 64% FT)

Gazi, the former Big East rotation piece at DePaul before transferring, is seeing his first real playing time now that he is eligible for the Rams, and he has been a serviceable role player for Neubauer. Across the court, Buchanan has made a tangible leap as well, and although it is not as profound as the one Tykei Greene has made, his development is clearly visible, especially as a facilitator on both sides of the floor, something Gazi is not. However, the Turkish import has more of a perimeter game, which will come into play early and often, along with his decided experience edge.

Advantage: Fordham

Forwards: Onyi Eyisi (6-9 So., 8.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 43% FG, 68% FT) vs. Christian Hinckson (6-7 So., 8.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 46% FG, 83% FT, 60% 3-pt FG)

Looking at Eyisi’s numbers, the sophomore bears a resemblance to Ryan Canty and the role he played under both Neubauer and Tom Pecora when not battling injuries. Matching up with Hinckson, a similar player with more of an all-around game, will be a challenge that will need to be solved on the perimeter. Look for Hinckson to stretch the floor and play further into the Jaspers’ hands.

Advantage: Manhattan

Chuba Ohams (6-9 Jr., 13.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, 50% FG, 44% FT) vs. Pauly Paulicap (6-8 Sr., 7.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 42% FG, 55% FT)

Now healthy and able to show off his potential to its fullest, Ohams has been the biggest revelation for Fordham this season, turning into a formidable post player while simultaneously filling the scoring void left by Honor’s transfer. Paulicap is also back at 100 percent and remains a defensive X-factor, but if Fordham can pound the ball inside and employ its height advantage with Ohams and Eyisi, the Rams will be able to control the game in the paint, something the Jaspers have been unable to do consistently.

Advantage: Fordham

BENCHES
Fordham’s reserves are numerous, as Neubauer traditionally goes at least nine-deep. In fact, eleven Rams are averaging at least ten minutes per game. Ivan Raut is the most prolific among the substitutes, and he — along with Ty Perry, Josh Colon and freshman Joel Soriano — will be counted on to make sure Fordham can match Manhattan and its perpetually fresh legs. For the Jaspers, having Williams and Reynolds coming in as the seventh and eighth men behind Bud Mack, who will usually be first off the bench to spell one of the guards, gives Masiello the luxury of having multiple starters on the floor regardless of whose number is called. The Jasper bench may not be as long this season, but its early returns through November reflect quality over quantity, not to mention a greater scoring prowess than that of Fordham. Those two factors tip the scales with green paint colored over the Rams’ maroon.

Advantage: Manhattan

COACHING
Neubauer entered this rivalry with a massive deficit in coaching acumen when compared to Masiello, but with each passing year, the gap has narrowed. Fordham is often criticized for many things, but to the Rams’ credit, they are a fundamentally sound team that never sacrifices its principles on either end of the floor. As far as Masiello goes, just because his advantage in tactics may not be as profound as it was previously, that does not mean he or his team should be counted out. The Jaspers have routinely silenced doubters when the dissenting voices become heightened and more audible, and after a double-digit loss to Stony Brook, the skeptics may be ready to emerge from the woodwork again. With that said, Masiello still wins this matchup, but Neubauer will give him a run.

Advantage: Manhattan

PREDICTION
The magic number Saturday afternoon will be 60. In each of Fordham’s five wins this season, the Rams have surrendered less than 60 points. Of the three games Manhattan has won this year, each victory has been earned in different fashion. The Jaspers’ 85 points in their season-opening triumph over Delaware State remain a season high, but the 57-point gritty win over Albany and the double-digit comeback to defeat Elon have shown that Manhattan is a second-half team more than any point since the two championship years. However, the factor to watch here will be what happens should Fordham get an early lead. Manhattan has struggled to play from behind, and has not completely broken out of its shell in that arena, so if the Rams come out of the gates firing, the day could be over before it begins. Look for Manhattan to employ a businesslike tone on both ends of the basketball, though, one that will showcase a chip on the Jaspers’ collective shoulder on the heels of their largest defeat of the young season. Expect a vintage Jasper basketball performance Saturday, one in which field goal percentage defense will be a point of emphasis. This could be a defining moment for both teams heading into conference play, and it would not be surprising if it were to go down to the wire. That type of atmosphere favors Manhattan, who has been in more close games than Fordham this year, and who will use that to its advantage. Tom Pecora always said records were thrown out the window in this rivalry, and Fordham’s recent run of success will be halted at the hands of a hungry Jasper squad that will prove Monday night was an aberration, but not without a fight from the hosts first.

Manhattan 64, Fordham 60