by PETE JANNY, Staff Writer
MBB: FOR: 57, MAN: 56
The Manhattan College Jaspers (2-5) hosted their crosstown nemesis the Fordham University Rams (6-1) on Saturday night in front of a near capacity crowd of 2,023 at Draddy Gymnasium.
In the 111th installment of the “Battle of the Bronx,” both teams were backed by an impressive turnout in what ended up being a historic clash between the two schools. The Manhattan school spirit that emanated from the “Sixth Borough” student section, willed their team to the cusp of victory in what turned into a heartbreaking 57-56 loss. Unable to avenge last season’s 70-57 defeat at Rose Hill, Manhattan’s all-time head-to-head advantage over the Rams now stands at 57-54.
Fordham built an early cushion off of a few three pointers, including a four-point play by junior Antwon Portley, to take an 18-8 lead. A short while later, the Jaspers found a groove and rattled off seven straight points to eventually get within one point of the lead. Despite this momentum swing in Manhattan’s favor, Fordham staved off the comeback attempt and continued to hold a lead for much of the first half.
This lead was extinguished when the Jaspers ignited a late 6-0 run to enter the locker room with a 27-25 halftime lead. Manhattan freshman forward Warren Williams delivered an impressive first half performance as he notched 10 points on an efficient 5-for-6 shooting from the field. Head coach Steve Masiello lauded the effort of Williams, who he believes is a part of the best front court in the MAAC.
“I thought Warren Williams was dominant in the first half,” said Masiello. “There’s just not a lot of guys like Pauly, Warren, and Ebube in the MAAC. So I think that just says something about our front line.”
In only his second game back from injury, Pauly Paulicap showed why his presence was so dearly missed. His effervescence on both sides of the floor is infectious which is why his contributions on Saturday night came as a surprise to no one.
Coming out of the break, Manhattan looked hungry and ready for the sprint to the finish. Despite Manhattan’s sustained aggression, Fordham regained the lead and at times threatened to run away from the Jaspers. This lead was extended to eight at 40-32 with 12:37 remaining, but was chipped away at by Manhattan in the ensuing minutes.
With just over five minutes remaining, sophomore forward Ebube Ebube buried a three-ball to cut Manhattan’s deficit to just two points at 51-49. Masiello touted Ebube’s admirable work ethic which he believes has made him into a key contributor for Manhattan.
“He’s by far out of anyone in this program who has put the most time into his game,” said Masiello. “We’ve seen great strides from him since last year, so he’s going to continue to improve.”
The inspiring play of Paulicap late in the second half made the thought of a Manhattan victory seem more and more conceivable with the passing of each electric play he made. His final highlight, a driving layup with 25 seconds remaining, handed the Jaspers their first lead of the half at 56-55. Unfortunately for the Jaspers, Fordham freshman guard Nick Honor had the final say in this one when he finished an acrobatic layup with two seconds remaining to sink the Jaspers 57-56.
“Give Nick Honor and Coach Neubauer a ton of credit,” said Masiello. “Nick made a hell of a shot and is a terrific young basketball player. Fordham deserves a lot of credit for coming in here against a tough crowd and tough environment to get a gritty road win.”
Manhattan’s free throw woes came back haunt them as they shot an unsightly 16-of-28 (57.1%) from the charity stripe. Meanwhile, the Rams only took 10 free throw attempts while connecting on six of them. The Jaspers entered the night ranked number one out of all NCAA division one teams in highest forced-turnover percentage. They continued to wreak havoc in this facet of the game as they pressured Fordham into making 13 miscues. Despite their defensive prowess, Manhattan’s offensive efforts have yet to yield much success. The team’s average of 52.2 points per game is the third lowest mark in NCAA Division 1.
“Our offensive numbers are obviously not where you want them to be, but I have a ton of faith in these young men,” said Masiello. “This is what happens when you have new players. But their attitude is great so we’ll eventually get it.”
Paulicap left his imprint on the game as he finished with 15 points and six boards. For the opposing side, junior guard Antwon Portley was chosen as the game’s most valuable player as he recorded 14 points, seven assists and three rebounds.
“I’m taking my time and not trying to rush myself,” said Paulicap.
“There’s no script with his minutes,” Masiello said of Paulicap’s return. “He could’ve played forty minutes. He’s just not in shape right now to play the way he wants to play. It’s December 1st only, I just need to make sure he’s ready for February.”
Masiello and Paulicap were appreciative of the energy and passion the fans brought to Draddy for what’s always a festive battle with Fordham.
“Terrific basketball game. Just one of those games that you wish would just keep going,” said Masiello. “I thought it was a very significant Battle of the Bronx in which both teams represented the colleges very well. Our administration did an unbelievable job of making this an unbelievable environment, so kudos to them.”
“It felt great. I love the vibe and I love the energy,” added Paulicap.
Manhattan will look to bounce back when they host the Stony Brook Seawolves on Wednesday, Dec. 5 for a 7:00 p.m. start.