CHRIS CIRILLO & DANIEL YNFANTE
SENIOR WRITER & ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
The Manhattan Jaspers (1-1 MAAC, 2-6) fell to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 63-55 despite a heroic second half effort by Emmy Andujar. The Jaspers have lost six of their past seven games away from Draddy Gymnasium this season.
After the game, head coach Steve Masiello took blame for the team’s poor start. It is the worst start for Manhattan under Masiello.
“I did a really bad job with our schedule,” he said. “And then you combine injuries. I think sometimes we’ve been victims of our success. A lot of these games we’re not supposed to win. Everyone’s saying, ‘Manhattan should win that game.’ [I’m saying], ‘why?’ We’re a MAAC school who’s been in the MAAC for however many years. We’re on the road at the ACC, on the road at the A10, on the road, neutral site here, neutral site there. It’s tough to win.”
Manhattan has played teams from the ACC, A10 and the Big Ten. They will travel to play Pittsburgh, another team in the ACC, next.
“The mistake I made was I shouldn’t have scheduled these many games on the road,” Masiello said. “We’ve played in Draddy once. I don’t know how many teams have done that.”
Rutgers started the game in a 2-3 zone that allowed just nine points through the first 12 minutes of the game. The Jaspers trailed by 10 at the end of the first half, shooting just 1-7 (14.3 percent) behind the 3-point line.
The story of the second half was fouls and turnovers. The Jaspers’ patented press defense forced Rutgers to turn the ball over 13 times, which the Jaspers used to cut the 10-point halftime deficit.
However, every time Manhattan would pull within two or four points. It would also turn the ball over or foul Rutgers and put it on the free throw line.
Rutgers took 17 free throws in the second half, of which it made 16. The Jaspers, on the other hand, went just 16-24 for the whole game.
It was at the charity stripe where Andujar had the chance to tie the game with Manhattan trailing 48-46, but he, who missed six of his 13 free throw attempts on the day, missed two of the most important free throws.
The Jaspers trailed by two points on two more occasions, but with the score at 52-50. Rutgers’ Junior Etou responded with a thunderous dunk plus a foul to stretch Rutgers’ lead back up to five.
This sparked a run where Rutgers scored 11 of the last 16 points of the game to quell the Jaspers’ second half comeback attempt.
“It got to a point where the team who made the least mistakes was probably going to win,” Rutgers’ head coach Eddie Jordan said. “There were a lot of turnovers, a lot of missed plays, a lot of not so pretty basketball, but we were resilient enough to do the things we had to do to keep the lead and to win the game down the stretch.”
Masiello recognized his team’s sloppy performance, but also highlighted the team’s surge in the second half.
“We came out a little flat tonight I thought, no excuses for that,” he said. “I thought our first half play was kind of un-Manhattan-like, which is something we’ve been struggling with a little bit, but I thought we came out in the second half and did a lot of good things.”
Andujar led the way for Manhattan with 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Ashton Pankey was right behind him in points and rebounds with 10 and six respectively, and Jermaine Lawrence had his highest scoring output in his Manhattan career with eight points.
Andujar recognized the team’s struggles, but is still optimistic about the future.
“We’re now just getting guys healthy again,” he said. “We’re trying to build that chemistry and it’s a young team, so we’re still trying to build along and we still have a lot of growing pains.”
With the loss, the Jaspers now fall to 2-6.
But Masiello believes the team is better than that.
“We’re not a 2-6 team,” said Masiello. “That I know.”