Charles Lippolis, Assistant Sports Editor
Sunday night, Manhattan’s Men’s Basketball Team celebrated senior Tyler Wilson’s career with a win over Qunnipiac with a final score of 95-74.
The Jaspers shot the lights out, with their 55% mark from field goal range leading them to their highest scoring performance of conference play. More importantly, the defense was the facilitator of this offense, with the team scoring 30 points off turnovers.
“I thought it was our best performance of the year, not because we made shots,” head coach Steve Masiello said, “we finished turning them over 22 times with 11 steals.”
Manhattan’s break through comes on a night that was dedicated to two-time MAAC Champion Tyler Wilson. A last-minute nod in the starting lineup, Wilson impacted the game the same way he has for the past 4 seasons: defense and passing. On his last night playing in Draddy, Wilson racked up five assists to move into seventh place on the Manhattan all-time assists list and notched two steals.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better send off,” Wilson said, “I feel like this is going to help us get on a run.”
Sunday night was the first time Manhattan had cracked the 80-point mark in a roughly a month and half, and was the first time the team had three players score over 20 points since 2008.
One of the main contributors one both ends of the floor was freshman guard Aaron Walker Jr., who scored a career high 20 points, had four assists, and was able to record three steals on the defensive end. With a long career ahead, Masiello hopes that Walker Jr. will use nights like Sunday to eventually become one of the most dangerous players in the conference.
“He’s one of the most talented kids I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach,” Masiello said, “He needs to understand what goes into being great at the college level, when he does, everyone better watch out.”
Masiello’s teams have been known for their collective contribution towards winning basketball, with an aggressive style of play that suggests a relatively even rotation. Sunday night, there were an irregular five Jaspers who saw more than 25 minutes on the floor: Zane Waterman, Zavier Turner, Tyler Wilson, and Calvin Crawford.
The common denominator in these players was their ability effect the game defensively, and on a night where defense lead to offense, their tenacious defense was the foundation of their offensive explosion.
“Tonight they made a great run, good teams do [Quinnipiac] cut it to one, we got our energy from our defense,” Masiello said, “When we can feed off our defense, that’s when we have a chance to be really good.”
Quinnipiac made their run around the midway point of the second half, bringing the game a score of 63-62 at one point. The difference in Sunday performance was the ability for the Jaspers to continue to play persistent defense even as the other team was heating up.
Where Masiello had seen his team crumble so many times this year was where they excelled on Sunday. To cap off the strongest defense performance of the season, junior forward Zane Waterman took two charges on back-to-back offensive possessions for the Bobcats. On the night where the Jaspers’ all-time leader in charges taken was honored, Masiello wants the example of his upperclassman to rub-off on young talent.
“A charge, I think, is the most selfless play there is,” Masiello said, “We got to get other guys doing that.”
The Jaspers travel to Rider Wednesday night to face the Broncs in the next contest with hopes of building off this impressive win as the MAAC tournament inches closer.