The Manhattan Jaspers have been here before. Just like they are now, they were 1-5 to start last season.
They just haven’t been 0-2 in MAAC play for a long time. In fact, not since the 2010-2011 season have the Jaspers gone winless in the first two conference games. But after a 75-70 loss to the Marist Red Foxes, the Jaspers find themselves in that precarious situation.
Yet head coach Steve Masiello believes the past experiences will push the Jaspers out of their funk.
“I can take last year as a blueprint,” Masiello said. “I can take my second year here as a blueprint. We’ve done it a lot of different ways. … It’s a process. That’s what this level is. It’s a grind every game. … We know the blueprints. We know how to do it. It’s a matter of us practicing and doing it and when we do that, we’ll be who we’re supposed to be.”
It seemed like everything had lined up for the Jaspers to pick up their first conference win early on. For the first time all season, the Jaspers were relatively healthy and thus were able to consistently press.
It made a difference in the first half, as the Jaspers were able to keep the Red Foxes in check. With 7:50 remaining in the first half, the Jaspers led a low-scoring affair 18-16. The teams were plagued by turnovers at that point, with the Jaspers having committed nine and the Red Foxes six.
But the Red Foxes found a hole in Manhattan’s defense and went on a 8-0 run to regain the lead.
The teams traded buckets for the next four minutes, but with Marist holding a 32-27 lead, Rich Williams decided to take over the game.
Williams, who finished the first half with 15 points on a perfect 6-6 from field, scored the last 10 points of the half for the Jaspers. Williams alone ignited a 10-2 run to close the half and the Jaspers took a 37-34 lead into the locker room.
Perhaps more impressive than the solid defensive half was the lights out shooting for the Jaspers, who finished the first half 14-20 from the field.
They carried that hot shooting into the second half, where with the game tied at 42, the Jaspers went on an 11-0 run to take their biggest lead of the game.
However, that was the last of the hot shooting that would be seen in the second half, as the Jaspers struggled for the rest of the game, going 11-34 for the second half.
Immediately after Manhattan’s run, the Red Foxes went on an 8-1 run to cut Manhattan’s lead to four.
The run came after a timeout was called by Marist’s head coach Mike Maker, who told his team that they could not let the 11-0 run by Manhattan beat them.
“These are the times that we’ve gone south,” Maker said. “We have to stand tall now. This is a meaningful moment and opportunity for our basketball program. Give a lot of credit to our guys. I thought they dug in and we guarded much better with better energy. … It gave us a chance down the stretch.”
With the Red Foxes rejuvenated and back into the game, the Jaspers had a hard time stopping them the rest of the way, and quickly found themselves playing catchup.
A pair of three-pointers from RaShawn Stores in crunch time brought Manhattan to within one at 64-63. The Jaspers then regained the lead 67-66 on a jumper from Zane Waterman, but Marist sparked an 8-0 run to go up 74-67 with 10 seconds left to play.
The Jaspers failed to convert on some chances down the stretch, missing a layup down 68-67, traveling down 71-67, and then missing a 3-pointer and a layup again down 71-67.
The Red Foxes simply iced the game with free throws and won 75-70.
“I thought we did a poor job of getting to some shooters defensively and I thought we missed some wide open looks,” Masiello said was the key difference in the second half.
The Jaspers had been 36-1 the last three seasons when leading at halftime. They were 18-3 against the Red Foxes at home, and had won six in a row against them. The past struggles against the Jaspers made the victory for Marist immense.
“This is a big program win for us,” Maker said. “We have great respect for Manhattan and coach Masiello. To go on the road, especially on the heels of getting blown out by Iona at home and then the previous game against Vermont on the road … I thought our confidence was shaken and we needed to get back programmatic core values. I thought this was a gut check game for Marist.”
Williams led the way for the Jaspers with 22 points, while Stores had his most impressive game of the season with 18 points.
The Jaspers return to action on Wednesday when they face off against the Columbia Lions at Draddy Gymnasium.