BRONX, N.Y. – There have been early season injuries, an arduous schedule and the normal bumps in the conference road. Following Sunday’s 79-70 victory over Fairfield, coach Steve Masiello can feel his Manhattan team is on track to “play for march.” The Jaspers had suffered a tough final possession loss to rival Iona at home on Friday. Less than 28 hours later, they were back in the confines of their Draddy Gymnasium to face a team that defeated them in December. They rose to the occasion.
Imposing their defensive will, the Jaspers forced 20 Fairfield turnovers (a 30 percent turnover rate in tempo free terms). The result: a 26-14 advantage in Manhattan’s offensive flow.
“Last year’s team could hold teams to shooting in the 30 percent range,” Masiello said. “This team has their strength in forcing turnovers.”
Emmy Andujar paced Manhattan with 22 points. Shane Richards did not score in the first half, but the Manhattan guard hit a few early three-pointers in the second half and in his words, ”got into a shooter’s groove.” He finished with 20 points, all following intermission.
With the MAAC tournament a few weeks away, Masiello naturally wants his defending champions to get a high seed as possible. The matchups, though, are of greater importance, “Who you draw is big,” the coach said. “The tournament (in Albany) is on Siena’s home floor, so you don’t want to see them first round. We beat Monmouth twice. They are really good and statistically defeating them a third time is difficult. That’s why I look at matchups as opposed to just seedings.”
The case could be made for opponents facing Manhattan. At this juncture they are playing well and provide defensive problems. The manner in which they bounced back from the Iona setback is a testament to resiliency and preparation on short notice. Those are two admirable traits in tournament play.