By John Jackson, Staff Writer
The Manhattan Jaspers (2-0; 0-0 MAAC) topped the Harvard Crimson (2-2; 0-0 IVY) by a score of 73-69 on Saturday afternoon in Draddy Gymnasium.
After a thrilling 80-79 overtime victory in their season opener against St. Francis Brooklyn on Nov. 15, the Jaspers looked to put up their second consecutive win in a row to begin the season for the first time since their 2013-2014 campaign.
“I take my hat off to them,” Head Coach Steve Masiello said of Harvard. “I thought it was just a really good basketball game. Could’ve gone either way down the stretch. Aaron [Walker Jr.] and Rich [Williams] made some good plays.”
Danilo Djuricic started off the scoring two minutes and 20 seconds into the game as he gave the Crimson a 2-0 lead with a layup. That’s the only lead they would have in the first half as Zane Waterman tied things up and Williams made a three-pointer to give Manhattan a 5-2 lead with 16:07 to go in the half.
The Crimson kept things close at first and even tied the game with 12:11 left, but after that, the Jaspers went off. They went on a 30-15 run the rest of the half to go into halftime up by 40-25.
Williams and Calvin Crawford led the team in the first half with 14 points apiece and perfect three-point shooting. Crawford was 2-for-2 and Williams was 4-for-4. Zaiver Turner was a key player as well as he had six assists in the first half; the same as the entire Harvard team combined at that point.
After Thomas Capuano began the scoring in the second half with jumper for Manhattan, Harvard started to chip away at the Jaspers’ lead. They went on a 12-0 run to turn a 17 point deficit into a five point deficit. Masiello called a timeout with 15:28 remaining and 16 seconds later, Williams finally put the team back on the board again with a three-point play.
The two teams went back and forth scoring-wise until 10:37 when Seth Towns went off for the Crimson. Towns scored eight consecutive points in 51 seconds to give his team a lead for the first time since 17:40 in the first half.
“The Harvard team did a phenomenal job for a young team coming in on the road. Eighteen point lead, they cut it, they took the lead,” said Masiello.
Harvard would extend that lead to as much as six points with 6:11 left to play. Manhattan fought back to take a 64-62 lead with 3:30 to go behind eight points from Walker Jr.
After Harvard tied things up at 64 a few seconds later, Williams made a critical three-point shot that would give Manhattan a permanent lead.
One game after scoring 21 points, Williams helped the Jaspers’ effort with 20 points. It was the second time he put up back-to-back 20-point performances in his career.
Williams, a fifth-year senior, played on the 2013-2014 squad that won the MAAC Tournament and made it to the NCAA Tournament. The two victories the Jaspers started out with this season were similar to the first two in that season. They began the 2013-2014 campaign with a 99-90 overtime victory over La Salle University and followed it up with a close 71-70 victory over Columbia University. After winning in overtime and playing a close one in the second game of this season, there were some similarities drawn.
“Just to see us fight back, it was similar in that sense, said Williams. “That adversity we faced. It’s a good start. A good stepping stone.”
Williams was out for the 2016-2017 season with a medical redshirt. So far he has been productive, happy to be back, and looking to improve his defense.
“I say it all the time, it’s a blessing to be out there with the guys,” said Williams. “More importantly than anything is all about defense. Just getting in that defensive mindset.”
Walker Jr. had 11 points and three assists in this one. His overall play so far has improved and he credits dedication in the summer to that.
“I guess I improved a lot,” said Walker Jr. about his performance. “It’s something I’ve been working on this whole summer. Ever since that last game we lost in the MAAC Tournament, I just got in the gym, got with the coaches and worked.”
Masiello also got solid performances out of Crawford (19 points and nine rebounds) and Turner (seven points and seven assists). However, in addition to his players, Masiello cited the crowd for a big reason why they won.
“We don’t win this game if we don’t have that student section,” said Masiello.