It was close. It was ugly. But it was a much needed win for the Manhattan Jaspers, who defeated the Morgan State Bears 73-69 at Draddy Gymnasium.
The Jaspers, led by Shane Richards’ 20 points and Emmy Andujar’s 16 points; six assists and five rebounds, forced 19 Bears turnovers en route to a nail-biting victory.
“We figured it out, we gutted it out and we got an ugly win,” said Jaspers head coach Steve Masiello during the post-game press conference. “I’ll take them. I’ll take 20 more ugly wins. I don’t care how pretty they are. I’m not pretty. I just want the ‘W,’ that’s all I care about.”
On a night when Richards broke the school record for career three-pointers, he started the scoring for Manhattan with a layup on an assist from RaShawn Stores.
Richards added to Manhattan’s lead with his first three-pointer of the game to give Manhattan an early 7-2 lead, but Morgan State responded with a 5-0 run to tie the game at seven.
Runs would be the story of the first half–the score was tied on seven different occasions and the lead changed five times.
Both teams traded baskets on ensuing possessions when Morgan State—up 16-14—lost its lead when Stores hit a 15-foot jump shot as the shot clock expired and was fouled, converting the free throw to give Manhattan a 17-16 lead.
Morgan State responded again, however, with six straight points on jump shots from junior forward Cedric Blossom, who gave Morgan State its biggest lead of the half at 22-17.
A 9-0 run gave Manhattan a 26-22 lead, but Morgan State would score 11 of the last 16 points to go up 33-31 at halftime.
When the second half was underway, Richards went back to business.
He made a his fourth three-pointer of the game. Breaking Devon Austin’s school record for three-pointers with 166. In this game he also recorded his second career 20-point game.
“To be honest, I almost forgot about the record before the game,” said Richards. “I really was just trying to come out aggressive and just get our team off to a fast start.”
Then he showed off his improved game when he converted on a left-handed floater off the glass to give Manhattan a 40-39 lead.
Much like the first half, the teams continued to play closely–five ties and 13 lead changes.
With Morgan State up 51-49, the Jaspers, propelled by two three-pointers from Rich Williams and two jump shots from Jermain Lawrence, went on a 10-2 run to hold a 59-53 lead, its biggest lead of the second half.
But the Jaspers would go ice cold, going scoreless for the next six minutes, which allowed Morgan State to regain the lead at 60-59.
After Andujar broke the Jaspers’ dry spell and sophomore guard Torin Childs-Harris hit a three-pointer to give the Bears a 65-61 lead, things were looking gloomy for the Jaspers.
There was a strange sequence when Bears senior guard Blake Bozeman fouled Richards and was called for a technical foul that put Richards on the line for four consecutive free throws, making all of them in the process, which tied the game at 65.
Manhattan shortly thereafter regained the lead off a goaltending call on Morgan State on a Tyler Wilson layup.
Then, with the score at 67-66, Andujar made a jump shot from the top of the key as the shot clock expired to put Manhattan up 69-66.
“That [shot] was just our bench being vocal letting us know time is running out,” said Andujar. “Obviously, [my teammates] are going to want the ball in my hands no matter how I’m playing because I’ve been here for the longest and I’m one of the leaders on this team, so it just went in and that’s what we were really hoping for.”
With 34 seconds remaining, junior guard Donte Pretlow nearly tied the game on a three-point play for the Bears, but he missed the game tying free throw.
From there, the Bears played the fouling game and Manhattan converted on four more free throws and ended up winning 73-69.
“Mark it in the left column,” said Masiello. “I thought the road games helped us keep our poise at the end…. [I’m] just happy to get the win.”
The win marked the first victory for Manhattan this season when trailing at halftime and gave it only its second non-conference victory of the season. The team’s record stands at 3-7.
The daunting non-conference schedule, which has seen Manhattan face off against Big Ten, ACC and Atlantic 10 opponents, will finally come to an end for Manhattan when it takes on the Fordham University Rams on Monday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.