The Manhattan Jaspers (9-16; 4-10 MAAC) took on the first place Monmouth Hawks (20-5; 12-2 MAAC) at 9:00 pm on Friday night in Draddy Gymnasium.
The Jaspers came into the game leading the all-time series 8-4 and 5-0 at home, but the Hawks were able to edge them out, as they took a 60-57 lead with 1:27 to go in the second half and finished the game with a 62-58 victory.
“A very ugly basketball game in the best way possible I guess,” said Head Coach Steve Masiello.
The Jaspers went toe-to-toe with the Hawks in the first half. Je’lon Hornbeak opened up the scoring with a jumper for the Hawks. Zavier Turner answered back with a layup to tie the game; something that occurred eight more times in the first half for a total of six minutes.
There was a lot of back and forth for the first 12:52 of the game, as both teams turned over the ball a combined 16 times. The Hawks starting gaining control after a three-pointer by Micah Seaborn with 7:48 to go. While Turner responded with his tenth point of the game, Hornbeak gave the Hawks their third three-pointer of the game to make the score 18-13 in favor of Monmouth.
Sam Ibiezugbe dunked to make the game 20-15 Hawks with 6:03 to go. That tied Monmouth’s largest lead of the half at five. The Jaspers then went on a 14-7 run to finish out the half, getting points from six different players.
Both teams were replicating each other as they ended the half with four assists, 12 turnovers, and three blocks. The Jaspers got a lot of production from Turner as his 12 points were the most by either team. Manhattan’s defense remained suffocating through the first half, and were able to hold the reigning MAAC Player of the Year Justin Robinson to zero points, zero assists, and two rebounds.
“Right from the beginning it’s a ‘bang, bang’ game,” said Hawks Head Coach King Rice. “”We’re fighting, they’re fighting…it was just two teams battling each other.”
In the second half, the gritty play from both sides continued, and while Turner was able to turn his 12 point first half into a 27-point final mark and score his 1000th point, Monmouth was able to prevail in the final minutes.
The Jaspers were not able to score a field goal in the last 3:34 of the game as Monmouth came back from behind to seal Rice’s 100th win. After the game, Rice was thankful for the opportunity his players have given him at Monmouth.
“I have a job because of these kids,” said Rice, “If [the senior class] did not come to Monmouth when they did, I probably don’t make it.”
Monmouth took the lead on a corner three from sophomore Micah Seaborn, a player that Rice described as being older than his age might hint.
For Manhattan, a back and forth battle with the top team in the conference came down to their weakest ability all night, the three-point shot. In the first half, Manhattan took ten three-pointers and made none of them.
There was a slight improvement in the second half, as Turner got off to a hot start, making three of his first five attempts. However, the team as a whole finished at 12% (3-25) from behind the arc, with the last behind a heartbreaking attempt from Turner which rattled out from the inside of the rim.
“In a positive way, Monmouth won with their C game,” said Coach Masiello.
The Jaspers now fall to 4-11 in conference, and currently sit ahead of only Marist. The team is back in action Sunday at home against Saint Peter’s.