Manhattan continued its gritty second half play on Friday night with a 76-73 win over the Rider Broncos.
The Jaspers were carried on the shoulders of Zane Waterman and his career night. The junior forward from North Carolina notched a career high 35 points, and added seven rebounds. When asked if Waterman entered the game with a plan to dominate, he emphasized the team effort.
“I wasn’t looking to do anything, it was just my teammates finding me in good places at the right time,” said Waterman.
For Coach Steve Masiello, his 99th win reminded him of what it means to be a Jasper, harping on the aggressiveness of his team’s play.
“I thought we showed signs of our vintage, what we do,” said Masiello, “I didn’t like Fairfield, I didn’t recognize our team, I didn’t recognize us period. But we’re going in the right direction, that’s what matters.”
The win against the first place team in the MAAC could not have come at a better time. After dropping its first five conference games, Manhattan has returned to form, notching wins in each of its past two conference matchups.
A huge part of that turn-around is due to the consistent play of junior point guard Zavier Turner. The transfer student from Ball State University has emerged as the team’s best player, and a leader, averaging 16.6 points-per-game to go along with 3.5 assists-per-game.
“Before, prior to coming here, I never was able to lead a team like that,” said Turner after the game, “I’m really getting out of my comfort zone and leading guys”.
Even with Turner’s 23 points to compliment Waterman’s big night, there were questions surrounding the offense. The Jaspers only were down two points going into the half, but on 31 percent shooting from the field and 18.2 percent from threepoint range.
However, as they have all season, the Jaspers dug deep in the second half to edge ahead. They bumped their field goal percentage to 50 percent and three-point shooting to 33.3 percent, creating offense off their defense, which forced seven turnovers and held Rider to 35.3 percent from the field.
The deciding factor of the game: free throw shooting. Not only did Manhattan get to the line more, but converted on its opportunities at a much better rate than the Broncs.
Rider shot its free throws at a 58.6 percent clip, 17-29, while Manhattan was 80 percent on 28-35 shooting. Coming into tonight’s contest, Rider was 291st in the nation in free throw shooting, a weakness that held the team down throughout the entirety of the game.
The Broncs did excel on the glass, outrebounding Manhattan 46-36 and were rebounding at a 2-1 rate on the offensive glass.
“You don’t see too many games where we give up more possessions than we have,” said Masiello.
The Jaspers will look to continue their hot streak on Tuesday night when rival Iona comes to Draddy Gymnasium