There was a point earlier in the season when the Manhattan Jaspers consistently trotted out seven or eight players.
The team went into games knowing it would be undermanned and would have to fight like dogs to screech out victories.
But for one of the few times this season, the Jaspers were relatively healthy against the Fairfield Stags, counting on the services of 10 players.
The added depth paid dividends for the Jaspers, who defeated the Stags 72-66. Head coach Steve Masiello opted for only using eight of the 10 players available, but this group of eight was different from the one he had been counting on for a large part of the season.
They were scholarship players, whose talents were deeply missed. Against the Stags, their contributions were impactful, as seven of the eight who played scored, and four reached double figures.
One of the four in double figures was Calvin Crawford, who scored a career-high 14 points.
“I got my legs under me finally,” Crawford, who just recently returned from a wrist injury said. “The wrist feels fine. I’m just happy we won.”
The win marks Manhattan’s third in four games, and its first in the MAAC this season. For Masiello, the win is important, but he remains focused on what’s at stake in March.
“I’m tired of all the chatter and all the noise,” Masiello said. “We don’t worry about it in my locker room. We do what we have to do. Come February or March will be what we do. I’m happy we won three of four, but I don’t care if we were 0-27 and the MAAC Tournament started tomorrow. We’re on everyone’s mind. We know it. Everyone else knows it. It’s the elephant in the room.”
The win put the Jaspers back on track, but more importantly showcased Manhattan’s depth and ability to rely on multiple players instead of just one.
Along with Crawford, Waterman and Williams led the scoring with 14 points each. Despite three fouls in the first half, Waterman was able to stay aggressive and make an impact in the game.
“Coach subbed me well honestly,” Waterman said. “He kept me out of foul trouble the last 15 minutes after I picked up the fourth. I was just trying to play aggressive even with the fouls.”
Waterman’s tomahawk dunk in the second half gave Manhattan a 43-41 lead, a lead it would hold on to for the rest of the game.
The Stags had a chance late in the game to cut into Manhattan’s lead, but six missed free throws in the second half proved costly, as it was the final margin of victory for the Jaspers who won 72-66.
For the game, Fairfield shot 11-21 from the free throw line, while the Jaspers shot 17-22.
Despite not having a single player reach double-digit rebounds, the Jaspers rebounded as a whole and won that matchup 44-39.
The Jaspers will have a tougher challenge on Monday when they face the Siena Saints who are 2-1 in the MAAC.
“We were in the exact same boat last year,” Masiello said. “We just lost to Niagara a year ago today. We were 1-2. … That’s what we’re going to have to do on Monday, playing probably one of the hottest teams in the conference in Siena.”