by PETE JANNY, Staff Writer
The Manhattan College Jaspers opened their season vs. the Elon University Phoenix on the night of Nov. 6 at Draddy Gymnasium. The showdown marked the first-ever meeting between the two programs in what was an exciting, hard-fought affair. The Phoenix, led by four seniors, were able to escape Draddy Gymnasium with a 62-56 victory over the Jaspers.
The Jaspers found themselves in an early hole when Elon senior forward Tyler Seiberg rattled off seven points to open the contest. Elon extended their lead to eight at the 13:34 mark when freshman guard Kris Wooten attacked the hoop to make the score 11-3. Manhattan’s poor first half shooting (8-31 FG, 25.8%) left them facing a 32-21 deficit at the halftime break. The biggest positive from the opening stanza was Manhattan freshman guard Samir Stewart’s solid play as he tallied a team-leading seven points on 2-of-5 shooting from long range.
“With four seniors starting I thought they showed some experience early,” said head coach Steve Masiello. “I thought we got some good looks around the rim. We just didn’t convert.”
The Jaspers came out of the break looking more relaxed as they cut the Elon lead to seven points at 41-34 with 12:16 remaining. Manhattan sophomore guard Nehemiah Mack caused fits for the Elon defense as he dropped all of his 10 points in the second half alone. Facing an 11-point deficit late in the half, Mack set up sophomore forward Edube Edube for a big three before connecting on one from long range himself to cut Elon’s lead to five with 6:05 to play. The Jaspers’ comeback attempt was then in full force due in large part to their strong defensive play and success on the boards.
“We did a good job taking care of the ball and were very good on the offensive boards,” said Masiello. “The guys came out and set the foundation for how we want to play as a team.”
The Jaspers creeped to within three with 3:49 remaining after freshman guard Tykei Greene drove to the hoop for two and senior guard Thomas Capuano drilled a three ball.
Manhattan threatened again when freshman forward Warren Williams converted on his layup attempt to again cut the lead to three with 1:50 left to play. The Williams’ layup marked the third and final time that Manhattan cut Elon’s lead to just three. Elon put the finishing touches on this one when senior guard Sheldon Eberhardt came up with a steal and finished a fast-break layup.
The Jaspers shot a putrid 32.3% from the field for the game while out-rebounding the Phoenix 36-35. The Jaspers made their presence felt on the defensive end as they forced 18 Elon turnovers while only coughing it up 12 times themselves.
“Give our team credit. We turned them over 18 times and got 20 more possessions,” said Masiello. “The problem was we shot 32 percent. I’m not sure how many nights we’ll shoot 32 percent but we did tonight.”
Capuano and Mack paced the Jaspers in scoring with 10 points each. Capuano also recorded a career-high eight boards to go along with four assists.
The Jaspers are coming off their second game of the season which was on the road against the University of Maryland-Baltimore County on Nov. 12. They resume play on Nov. 16 at 4:30 p.m. as they take on Coastal Carolina in Highland Heights, KY. Looking ahead, the Jaspers won’t return home until Dec. 1 when they play Fordham in the two teams’ annual “Battle of the Bronx.”