After a 1-5 start to a six-game road trip to start the season, a home game was just what the Manhattan Jaspers needed.
Behind a near triple-double from Emmy Andujar—15 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists— Manhattan defeated the Marist Red Foxes 60-38, in its home opener to earn its first win in the MAAC this season.
Playing with a completely healthy roster for the first time all season, head coach Steve Masiello was able to dig deep into his bench and play all 13 players who were dressed for the game.
“Obviously a good team win for us,” Masiello said. “I was just really excited just to see our roster healthy. For me, that was everything. Just to see 14 guys, 13 on scholarship that were able to play, makes us a much better team.”
The large rotation paid dividends for the Jaspers. Players went out for four or five-minute intervals in order to maintain maximum effort and then get their much-needed rest.
“The system I play and we play here is based upon depth,” Masiello said. We can’t have guys play over 30 minutes. Just, you can’t do it and be successful in this system because of the way we play…”
Inserting fresh bodies in and out of the game allowed the Jaspers to wreak havoc on the defensive end with its signature press, causing Marist to turn the ball over 19 times and holding Marist to just 20 percent shooting from the field.
One of the key members to Manhattan’s defense was Rich Williams, who came in with much energy in his first start of the season and scored a season-high 13 points.
“I feel like we were all in a string together,” said Williams. “We scrambled well, we didn’t give up, and we just stuck with it throughout the night.”
“I think that’s one thing we were missing in previous games. If one guy got beat, someone was there to step up this game…and I think that was big for us today.”
From the start of the game, it was apparent Manhattan would come out with a strong defensive effort.
The Jaspers scored the first 12 points of the game and forced Marist to miss its first nine shots of the contest. The Red Foxes were held scoreless until the 11:31 mark when K.J. Lee finally put Marist on the board with a layup.
Marist would get to within six points, the closest it would get for the rest of the game, at 14-8, but five turnovers contributed to a 15-4 Manhattan run that gave it a 29-12 lead.
But just when it seemed like Marist was sinking itself into a hole it couldn’t climb out of, the Red Foxes, behind five consecutive points from Phillip Lawrence, closed the first half on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 10 at halftime.
However, Marist’s hopes would end there, as it would not pose much of a threat in the second half.
Manhattan would open up the second half with two free-throw line jump shots from its leading scorers of the day in Andujar and Williams, and then a 3-pointer from Shane Richards, which gave the Jaspers a 36-19 lead.
The highlight of the night came when Andujar distributed one of his best assists to Williams. Andujar, drove to the lane, pump faked to get two defenders up in the air, and then just simply laid it off to a cutting Williams from the baseline, who then dunked it to give Manhattan what was its largest lead at the time at 43-24.
Andujar capped off his strong night with his second 3-pointer of the season to give Manhattan a 52-29 lead with eight minutes to play. By the end of the game, he fell just two assists shy of the first triple double in Manhattan history.
“It would have been real nice to get it [the triple-double]…hopefully I’ll get it this year,” Andujar said.
With the wire-to-wire win, Manhattan snaps a three-game losing streak, and evens its MAAC record at 1-1. It returns to action on Sunday Dec. 14 at Madison Square Garden, where it will take on Rutgers,
After the Jaspers lost five out of their first six games to start the season, Andujar believes the win serves as a turning point for the team.
“Very tough, I’ve never been in this situation before,” Andujar said. “But it’s either you can fold from it or keep fighting and it’s still early in the season, so obviously we’re going to keep fighting, it’s only going to get better, and like he [Masiello] said, we’ve got everybody healthy and we’re ready to get this rolling.”