Playing at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan College was hoping it could turn its season around by defeating a Big Ten opponent in Rutgers University.
In many ways, the 63-55 loss to Rutgers was a microcosm of the Jaspers’ season. The game for Manhattan was riddled with turnovers, missed free throws and, most importantly, scoring woes.
Eddie Jordan, Rutgers’ head coach, summed it up best.
“It got to a point where the team who made the less mistakes was probably going to win,” he said. There were a lot of turnovers, a lot of missed plays, a lot of not so pretty basketball.”
Not so pretty basketball has been the case for Manhattan all season long. The statistics from the game against Rutgers are staggering for the Jaspers.
Here are major numbers that highlight a recurring theme from the first eight games of the season.
Coming into the game Shane Richards was Manhattan’s leading scorer with 13.1 points per game. He had struggled in his last two contests scoring just eight and five respectively on a combined 3-13 shooting from the floor.
But Richards had yet to struggle as mightily as he did against Rutgers, when he was held scoreless on six shot attempts.
More alarming than his no-show on offense was his overall stat line. He had zero rebounds, zero assists and zero blocks in 19 minutes. His lone stat was a steal, otherwise Richards would have had an empty box score.
There was a reason for Richards’ abysmal performance though. In the last game against Marist, Richards fractured his shooting hand. To go along with that, Richards is still feeling the effects of an ankle injury he sustained on Dec. 5 against Fairfield.
Despite his injuries, head coach Steve Masiello gave credit to Rutgers’ defense for its job on Richards.
“At the end of the day, give Rutgers credit,” he said. “They knew where [Richards] was, they had great awareness. He didn’t have many open looks, shot a low percentage. I think we were one for 14 from three, Shane was 0 for 5. We’re not a one for 14 team from three and he’s not an 0 for 5 shooter. It happens, give the defense credit and you just hope and pray and do some stuff that it doesn’t happen again.”
The team overall needs as much help offensively as it can get. It is averaging just 61.9 points per game and has failed to surpass the 70-point mark in all but one game, already matching the total number of times it failed to score 70 points last season with seven.
Richards can be that go to scorer.
He carried the team offensively through the first three games of the season, averaging 18 a game, but has struggled in his last five, averaging just 7.6 a game, with only one double-digit scoring performance.
Manhattan will need Richards to get back on track on the offensive side of the ball if it wants to have success. There is only so much Emmy Andujar can do on offense. He needs someone like Richards to compliment him and perhaps surpass his scoring prowess.
In all eight games this season, Manhattan has turned the ball over in double figures. Against Rutgers, the team turned it over 14 times.
To a certain extent, Manhattan has been able to get away with the 15.6 turnovers per game it averages since its forcing its opponents to 18.6 per game.
The Jaspers actually won the turnover battle with 14 compared to Rutgers’ 21. But whereas Rutgers turned the ball over throughout the game, the Jaspers turned it over at key moments.
With Rutgers up five with four minutes to play, Jermaine Lawrence was called for a travel. On the very next possession, Ashton Pankey also turned the ball over. The two back-to-back turnovers ruined any chance for Manhattan to comeback, and Rutgers would tack on eight of the next 13 points to win 63-55.
The turnovers begin and end with Andujar, Manhattan’s point-forward. Andujar has found himself with the ball in his hand more than ever this season, and while he has undoubtedly been Manhattan’s best player. His 3.75 turnovers per game have hurt the team.
To make him tone down his aggressiveness would be detrimental to Manhattan, but Andujar has to find a way to limit his turnovers while also continuing to play with that aggressiveness that has resulted in a career-high in points per game at 12.5 and a solid 3.0 assists per game.
The recent return from injury of senior point guard Rashawn Stores might get the ball out of Andujar’s hands a bit more, which might diminish his turnovers. However, when Andujar does have the ball in his hands he will have to just simply make better decisions.
Manhattan shot 67 percent from the free throw line against Rutgers, just a bit over its dreadful season total of 62 percent. To make matters worse, its opponents are shooting 78 percent in its match-ups.
Also Manhattan is making 13.4 free throws per contest while its opponents are making 22.8.
Against Rutgers, the free throw disparity was at its worst when Rutgers shot 92 percent. Although Rutgers shot just one more free throw than Manhattan in the game with 25 to Manhattan’s 24, it only missed two. Manhattan, on the other hand, missed eight.
Teams will continue to get to the free-throw line against Manhattan because of its high pressure defense that will inevitably result in fouls, so Manhattan will have to learn to deal with teams getting many points on free throw attempts.
What Manhattan has to worry about is its own free throw shooting.
Entering Sunday’s game, Manhattan ranked No. 322 out of 351 Division 1 schools in free throw percentage.
It is hard to win games when you shoot so poorly from the charity stripe. Manhattan has to be able to make up for this by dominating some other statistical category, and its not doing that right now.
Andujar is once again at the front and center of missed free throws as he shot just 7-13 against Rutgers, including two huge misses with six minutes left to play that could have tied the game.
He is shooting just 47 percent from the free-throw line this season, which is below his 68 percent mark last season. For a guy who has been as aggressive as he has this season, he will continue to get fouled and continue to get opportunities for free points from the line.
If Manhattan is going to continue to depend on Andujar to take hold of the offensive duties, it cannot afford for him to shoot 47 percent.