Editor’s Note: Stats are accurate as of 1/31/2015.
For much of the season, Manhattan’s scoring woes have been a recurring theme.
In fact, Manhattan’s lack of scoring was chronicled in this very same column back on Dec. 1, 2014, when the Jaspers stood at 1-4 and were averaging a measly 65.2 points per game.
But over the last six games, the Jaspers have averaged 75.3 points per game and their recent scoring spree was highlighted with a season-high 87 points in a win against Siena.
Perhaps more impressive than the 87 points was the number of contributions the Jaspers received. The scoring was not dominated by a few 20-point scorers. Instead, the Jaspers had five players score in double figures.
For head coach Steve Masiello, the number of scoring options he had versus Siena is something he thinks can be a new facet for the team.
“I think we’re more dangerous offensively,” Masiello said after the game against Siena. “Last year, I don’t think we could have got five guys in double figures. I don’t think we would have put up 18 assists on 25 field goals. We weren’t that type of team. This year’s team has great offensive firepower.”
Against Siena, Emmy Andujar led the way with 20 points. Shane Richards had 14, Ashton Pankey had 13, Rich Williams had 13 and RaShawn Stores had 10.
Although it will be hard to repeat this kind of performance, it is certainly a good sign that Manhattan’s offense has finally come alive.
For most of the season, the Jaspers have gotten the bulk of their scoring production from three guys: Andujar, Pankey and Richards. Those three have scored 59 percent of the team’s total points. Even during their recent scoring binge they have had those three players lead the way by scoring 66 percent of the points.
But what is there now that was missing earlier in the season is that the Jaspers can finally rely on other players not named Andujar, Pankey or Richards to hit open shots and get them important baskets.
Of course, Andujar, Pankey and Richards continue to be the focal point of the team on offense, but when a play breaks down or if Masiello decides to run a play for someone else. There are now several players that have stepped up when their number has been called upon.
Look no further than Williams, who went to Masiello a week ago and asked him to come off the bench in order to provide some spark to the second unit. He has done just that, averaging 10 points per game in two contests off the bench.
Against Siena, Williams scored all 13 of his points in the first half and shot a perfect 3-3 from 3-point range. His lethal 3-point shooting seems to be something he has caught from the team as a whole.
Part of the reason why the Jaspers have been much improved on offense over the last six games has been the superb 3-point shooting. The Jaspers shot a season-high 60 percent from downtown against Siena, just a game after hitting a season-high 11 3-pointers against Monmouth.
Over the last six games, the team has shot 38 percent from distance, whereas it only shot 32 percent in the 14 games prior to that.
A key contributor to the 3-point barrage has been Stores, who has finally gotten the rust off from an injury that forced him to miss two games early in the season. Stores has hit at least one 3-pointer in eight of his last nine games, and during the six-game stretch where the scoring has improved he has shot a blistering 53 percent from long range.
With players like Williams and Stores chipping in to the scoring, it gives the Jaspers a completely new dimension. If teams double team Pankey, whose play has garnered that sort of treatment from opposing defenses, the Jaspers now have confident 3-point shooters in Williams, Stores and Richards.
If Andujar is doubled teamed on his drives to the basket, he has the same options with open shooters on the perimeter. The same goes for Richards, who now has the option to just kick it out to someone else if he is played aggressively while coming off screens.
The real task for the Jaspers now lies in getting players like Jermaine Lawrence to pick up their production. If Manhattan can get several players consistently contributing to the offense, the other ten teams in the MAAC better watch out.
“You have seven guys that can go get you 20 on a given night, that’s the difference and that’s why I’m really impressed with this team,” Masiello said. “If they could get the other side of the basketball, which for the last three years we’ve gotten, I like us.”