By: Daniel Ynfante & Charles Lippolis
After Friday night’s victory over Hofstra, Zavier Peart had to think long and hard when asked when was the last time he had a game like this.
That’s because he hadn’t had a game of this caliber.
Behind Peart’s career-high 16 points on 8-of-9 from the floor, the Jaspers defeated the Hofstra Pride 80-68.
“Coach told me to change, I went 2.0,” Peart, who sported a new haircut, jokingly said about what led to his performance.
Coming off a sluggish performance against Winthrop on Tuesday, Manhattan delivered its best outing of the season against Hofstra. The Jaspers shot a season best 54 percent from the field and held Hofstra to 39 percent from the floor.
“Good win for us,” Steve Masiello, Manhattan’s head coach said. “More so for the guys. I think they needed to feel good about themselves. Winning always helps.”
The first half was the most dominant 20 minutes of basketball the Jaspers have played thus far. Peart led the team off the bench with 14 points and 2 rebounds, bringing a presence down low that the Jaspers have lacked to start the season.
The game started with a 3-pointer by Hofstra’s Eli Pemberton, who would go on to lead the Pride in scoring in the first half with 10 points.
The Jaspers came right back, as freshman Na’Quan Council buried two three-point tries off the bench to keep Manhattan in the game. A 13-1 run put Manhattan up 17-12 with 11:33 left in the half and they didn’t look back.
A thunderous slam from junior Zane Waterman highlighted the dominant half, and the aggressive play of freshman guard Aaron Walker helped Manhattan stay in control of the game.
In the first start of his college career, Walker had 15 points and six rebounds, and showed poise handling the ball during various stretches in the game.
“Coming off of two losses, I felt like I wasn’t doing my job. I felt like I wasn’t doing an enough to help the team win”, Walker said. “To get a start was great, I just didn’t want to make coach regret it.”
Hofstra played most of the half without Rokas Gustys, who came in averaging 18 rebounds per game. The big man picked up two fouls, and without him on the floor, the Jaspers outrebounded Hofstra 17-13 and scored 20 points in the paint.
The Jaspers received contributions from their three big men in Ahmed Ismail, Ak Ojo and Peart, who played big in the paint all game.
“It’s great when you have that depth, that talent, but more than anything, that mindset,” Masiello said about his rotation of bigs. “I have three guys who are willing to bang, get in there and be physical and use 15 fouls. … We’ve had success when we’ve had true bigs, and we’re back to having that again, so I’m very fortunate.”
The Jaspers came out with the same intensity to start the second half, building on their lead early on. The Jaspers led 51-39 after starting the second half on a 9-5 run.
Behind a solid defensive performance and hot shooting from the floor, Manhattan maintained control of the game, leading by six to 12 points throughout most of the half.
But with the score 70-60 and five minutes remaining, an emphatic Masiello turned to the crowd and implored it to get up and make some noise. With the crowd on its feet and a raucous atmosphere at Draddy Gymnasium, Zavier Turner came up with a steal and a finger roll on the other end of the floor to make it 72-60.
The Jaspers held on to the lead and with 1:29 to go, Turner sealed the game with a nifty layup that stretched the lead to 16. The Jaspers held on to win 80-68.
With the win, the Jaspers avoided starting 0-3 for the first time in Masiello’s tenure as head coach.
“The reward for me isn’t winning now,” Masiello said. “The reward for me is getting a championship and getting to the NCAA. I don’t care if we’re 0-30 and I’ve said that every year. March 5th we’ll be ready. That’s all I care about.”
The Jaspers return to action on Sunday, on the road against Temple.