Jaspers Lose Wire-to-Wire Rivalry Game to Gaels

The Manhattan-Iona rivalry, has produced its fair share of classics. Double-overtime thrillers, buzzer-beating victories, and of course, three consecutive MAAC Championship encounters.

But the latest installment of the heated matchup was far from memorable. The meeting resulted in a sloppy, 70-56 wire-to-wire win for the Gaels.

The Jaspers shot 35 percent from the field and committed 14 turnovers, which head coach Steve Masiello believes was a big reason why the team loss.

“I just thought that when you shoot 35 percent, you can’t defend all night,” Masiello said. “We hurt ourselves with some breakdowns offensively and some breakdowns defensively that we’ll get better on and correct, and get ready for the next 10 games of conference play.”

If someone had told the Jaspers they would hold A.J. English, the reigning MAAC Player of the Year scoreless for the first half, not only would they have signed up for it, but they would have figured to be leading as well. But English still managed to make an impact, never forcing the issue– only attempting two shots– and dishing out five assists in the half.

“It’s not about me,” English said about his approach in this game. “It’s about the team. At the end of the day, I know that every team we play they’re going to go with defensive schemes against me. I’ve been playing Manhattan for like four years now and in the past three years they always send double teams, so I just told them [teammates] just be ready to shoot. Doesn’t matter if I score zero points. I’m happy if we win every single time.”

“We’re not going to let A.J. beat us,” Masiello said about the team’s gameplan for English. “I don’t want Justin Robinson to beat us. I don’t want teams’ top guy to beat us. Kids are too good today. You leave A.J. English in single coverage, you’re in trouble. He’s got to know multiple people are coming at him.”

Manhattan certainly wasn’t helped by its woeful shooting display in the first stanza. The Jaspers began the contest just 1-8 from the field, and shot 26 percent in the first half. Iona’s defense double teamed ball handlers, forcing Manhattan deep into the shot clock, which resulted in many last second heaves and several shot clock violations.

Zane Waterman kept the Jaspers in the game with 10-first half points, but the Jaspers found themselves down 33-20 at the half.

The second half began a bit more promising for the Jaspers, who cut the lead to 10, after hitting their first four 3-point attempts. However, the Jaspers engaged in a back and forth with the Gaels, who were paced first by Isaiah Williams, and then by Ibn Muhammad.

The Jaspers went down by as many as 15, but with the score in favor of Iona 52-37, the Jaspers went on a 8-0 run to cut the deficit to seven. The Jaspers seemed to have regained momentum, but as Iona’s supporting cast had done all night, the Gaels knocked down some timely baskets to keep the Jaspers under control.

With the Gaels up 54-46, English’s only basket of the night, a 3-pointer, ignited an 11-0 run. The Jaspers, who trailed by as little as seven with eight minutes to go, went down by 19 just four minutes later.

“You come out, you hold A.J. to four points, 1-8 shooting,” Masiello said, “you have to like your chances.”

However, Masiello’s assumption would not turn out to be true, as the 19-point deficit was too much for the Jaspers to overcome, and the Gaels came away with a 70-56 victory.

“As long as you learn from your losses, that’s the most important thing,” Masiello said. “I really believe in this: If we didn’t lose twice to Iona last year, there’s no way we beat them in the championship.”

Rich Williams paced the attack for the Jaspers with 15 points to go along with five rebounds. The Jaspers only got 15 combined points from Shane Richards and RaShawn Stores, on 4-14 shooting from the field.

Making his return to New Rochelle, where he played his high school basketball at Iona Prep, Thomas Capuano scored eight points, including two 3-pointers.

“It’s a little exciting,” Capuano said about returning home, “but it’s no different than any other game. I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help the team win. I’m just trying to play hard.”

The loss drops the Jaspers to 5-5 and to sixth place in the MAAC. The team returns to action on Tuesday, when it takes on Rider at Draddy Gymnasium.