Women’s Basketball Drops Last Game, Will be 5th or 6th Seed

Jacqui Thompson is one of Manhattan’s 5 seniors that was honored before the game. Kevin Fuhrmann/The Quadrangle

With a fourth seed spot on the line going into the conference tournament, Manhattan’s women’s basketball team came up short in their senior day matchup against Rider. The Jaspers fell 56-49 to the Broncs, who are just 5-15 in the MAAC.

Manhattan’s finishing record is 14-15 overall and 11-9 in the MAAC, their first winning record for the first time since 2011-2012. They clinched on Feb. 26 in their 60-43 victory over Saint Peter’s.

Before the game, Manhattan honored their five seniors Crystal Ross, Blake Underhill, Shayna Ericksen, Jacqui Thompson and Kylla Champagne. Head coach John Olenowski called them the “leadership class” as they brought a combined 400 games of collegiate experience into the 2015-2016 season. They are the largest senior class he has had in his seven seasons at Manhattan.

“We didn’t give up; we fought back,” Olenowski said after the loss. “We really tried hard to come back. We didn’t give up. We didn’t pack it in. We really came after them to try and get the win.”

Manhattan started out ahead with a layup from Ross before Rider quickly took the lead. The Jaspers got the lead back and ran with it to finish the first period up 12-8. Ross led with five points in her seven minutes played.

“I think at the start of the game we were a little bit sluggish,” Olenowski said. “I think [Rider] really capitalized on that and got the early lead. We were playing catch up it seemed like the whole game. We needed to have a better start and we needed to have more energy the entire game. So the slow start hurt us and unfortunately we couldn’t catch up later on.”

Manhattan bounced back in the second half with 18 points in the third period. Ross and Tatum led the Jaspers with seven points each in the third. Both Ross and Champagne had three rebounds. In the fourth period, Champagne led with three offensive rebounds and eight overall. Ross notched seven total defensive rebounds to lead the team. Both Champagne and Underhill played a team-high 34 minutes each and Tatum was third with 32 minutes.

Olenowski noted some positives to take from the loss, including Ross and Amani Tatum’s strong showings. Ross led the team with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Tatum had 11 points and four steals in the second half after being scoreless in the first.

Looking toward the upcoming tournament, the Jaspers can secure a first-round bye as the fifth seed if Monmouth loses to Saint Peter’s and will face Fairfield in the quarterfinals on Saturday March 5. If Monmouth wins against Saint Peter’s, however, the Jaspers will fall to the sixth seed and have to play a first-round game against Saint Peter’s on Thursday March 3.

“We have been preparing for the MAACs all year round,” Olenowski said.” We always have a one game at a time situation. So, I think that we’ll just keep going and realize that the next game we play is the biggest game that we play. We’ll keep it as a one game at a time season.”

According to NCAA statistics as of Feb. 26, Manhattan ranks among the top 20 Division I programs nationally in three categories. They stand at 15th place with 10.8 steals per game and 18th with 291 total steals on the season. They are 20th in turnovers forced with 20.37.

They also stand at 48th in the country with 4.7 blocks per game, 49th in blocks overall with 127 and 51st with a turnover margin of +3.11. Tatum is fourth nationally in steals and fifth in steals per game (91 and 3.37). Kayla Grimme ranks 29th in blocks with 65 and 32nd in blocks per game with 2.41.