A low scoring affair was expected between Manhattan and Saint Peter’s.
The Jaspers, seventh in the MAAC in points per game, and the Peacocks, ninth in the MAAC in the category, don’t exactly light up the scoreboard. The added pressure of being in the middle of a race for the fifth seed for both teams, meant the game would be closely contested.
But what ensued was not pretty, to say the least. The Jaspers scored a season-low 40 points and shot 26 percent from the field, in a snail race that went Saint Peter’s way, 61-40.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to John Dunne,” Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello said about the game. “I thought it was one of the best defensive performances since I’ve been in the conference. … I tip my hat off to Saint Peter’s.”
The loss decreases Manhattan’s chances of obtaining a fifth-seed and consequently, a first round bye in the MAAC Tournament. The Jaspers now sit in sixth place, and if the season ended today, would face the 11-seeded Marist on Thursday Mar. 3. For Manhattan to climb up to fifth, it would need to win its final two games of the season and have Fairfield, which sits in fourth, lose its final two games.
“Obviously you want to be in the top five,” Masiello said about seeding. “That’s a big deal. It’s one of those things where you want to be there, but that being said, whether you’re the nine-seed, or the six, or the four, you’re trying to win a championship. Whatever seed we get, we have to play out of it … and try to win a third title.”
Saint Peter’s now controls its destiny as the fifth-place team in the conference, after defeating Manhattan twice in the span of one week.
For head coach John Dunne, the win against Manhattan, despite Manhattan’s trimmed roster and sub .500 winning record, is key for the psyche of Saint Peter’s.
“I think it’s really important because at the end of the day, they’re one of the better programs in our league and their teams are just such well-coached,” Dunne said about the win over Manhattan. “They play very hard, night in and night out. They don’t have the depth and the numbers that they’ve had in the past, but they still got some very good players, and they’re still going to be a dangerous team moving forward any way you slice it.”
The first half was one to forget for both teams, who shot a combined 20-for-54 from the field. The Jaspers held a nine-point lead early in the half, but Saint Peter’s closed on a 12-4 run to take a 25-21 lead into the locker room.
If the first half was a nightmare for Manhattan, the second half was hell on earth. Manhattan quickly erased the four-point deficit and tied the game at 27. But that was the last time the Jaspers would be heard from.
The Jaspers shot 20 percent in a miserable second half performance that saw Saint Peter’s outscore them 36-19.
Manhattan made a run and cut Saint Peter’s lead to eight with 6:46 remaining, but Chazz Patterson’s triple ignited a 16-0 run for Saint Peter’s, which took firm control of the game and held Manhattan to just three points in the final 6:46 for a 61-40 win.
“At the end of the day, if you’re going to have a chance to beat Manhattan you’re going to have to come in with great intensity and match their intensity,” Dunne said about the win. “They’re one of the hardest playing teams in the league. We just had to come in with the intensity and with the defensive mindset.”
The Jaspers shot a woeful 15-for-57 from the field, including 3-for-23 from the 3-point line. The team had just one player reach double-digit scoring figures, as Zane Waterman finished the night with 10 points.
“I’m not a guy who believes in missing shots,” Masiello said about the offensive struggles in the game. “I believe in giving the defense credit, coming from a defensive-minded program. … We just couldn’t make a shot. It was a defensive battle that they won.”
Manhattan returns to the court on Friday against Iona, for its last home-game of the season.
“It’s Iona, so you know what you’re in for,” Masiello said about the matchup. ” You know what they’re capable of. … It’s Iona and Manhattan. They’re playing terrific and we’ve got to bounce back.”