Manhattan Second Half Comeback Stunted By Niagra

by John JacksonSenior Writer

WBB: Manhattan 54, Niagra 58

The Manhattan College women’s basketball team concluded their three-game homestand by playing host to MAAC rival Niagara for a nightly matchup on Jan. 24 in Draddy Gymnasium.

The Jaspers experienced a first half in which they never had a lead, followed by a second half in which they stayed competitive up until the final minutes. Ultimately, the Jaspers fell to the Purple Eagles by a score of 58-54. The loss brought Manhattan’s record to 3-14 overall and 1-5 in conference play. Niagara, on the other hand, improved to 9-10 overall and 5-2 in the MAAC.

The Purple Eagles started off the scoring as sophomore Emerald Ekpiteta’s jumper put them on the board after 30 seconds. Junior Pamela Miceus’ layup at the 8:30 mark gave the Jaspers their first points of the night, but that remained their only points until junior Julie Hoier connected on a jumper with 2:56 to go in the first quarter.

The Jaspers doubled that score by the end of the first, but trailed Niagara 15-8 due to a balanced effort by the Purple Eagles which saw five players score, five rebound the ball and four steal.

Defensive efforts on both sides kept things scoreless for the first few minutes of the second quarter. Freshman D’Yona Davis broke that streak at the 6:53 mark with a jumper. Junior Tuuli Menna’s layup 44 seconds later put the Jaspers within three at 15-12.

Niagara was able to handle Manhattan for the rest of the quarter. They took their largest lead of the night at the 2:04 mark when junior Maggie McIntyre sunk a three-pointer to make it a 25-14 game. The Jaspers cut that 11 point deficit to seven with 34 seconds to go, but a last-second layup from senior Kharysma Bryant sent the Jaspers to the locker room down by nine.

Defense was not the problem for the Jaspers in the first half. As a team they had three steals, six blocks and 25 rebounds. Hoier and Warley led the charge in those categories. Hoier had one steal, three blocks and four rebounds, while Warley had one steal, three blocks and eight rebounds. Both went on to have good games overall.

Hoier finished the night with seven points, two assists, four blocks, one steal and a career-high 10 rebounds.

“I thought Julie played outstanding coming off the bench tonight,” said Head Coach Heather Vulin. “She had a career-high in rebounds, was looking to score, had some big buckets for us.”

Warley had five points, one assist, six blocks, two steals and 11 rebounds. It was a career-high for her in blocks and it was the seventh time this season she reached double-digits in rebounds.

“I thought Courtney defensively was great. She had six blocks tonight,” said Vulin.

What did go wrong were missed shots and turnovers. The Jaspers were 8-for-27 (29.6 percent) in shooting, including 1-for-11 (9.1 percent) from the three-point line. Furthermore, they turned the ball over twice the amount that Niagara did with a 16-to-8 margin.  

When the third quarter began, the Jaspers looked like a different team. They continued to make rebounds (13), their shooting was better (9-for-19 overall and 4-for-7 from the three-point line) and they limited their turnovers (four).

“Well first off, we didn’t turn the ball over,” said Vulin on the team’s good start to the second half. “Also I think we really dominated the backboards. They weren’t really getting any second shots. We were really forcing tough shots.”

The last 3:07 of the third was a straight shootout between the two teams as they scored a combined 18 points. Davis started things off during the stretch by cutting Niagara’s lead to 34-31. Watkins followed 31 seconds later by sinking her second three-pointer of the game to tie the game for the first time of the night. McIntyre answered back with another three, only 14 seconds later, but then Watkins again hit a three to tie things up 22 seconds after that.

“Obviously Sydney’s a tremendous shooter,” Vulin said in regards to Watkins’ three-point shooting in the third. “She’s only a freshman, but she does a great job and she’s not shy about trying to make a big shot. She doesn’t hesitate, and that’s a big thing. A shooter needs to have that sway, that confidence.”

McIntyre scored her sixth and final three of the night with 1:12 to go, but Davis ended the eventful quarter with a three of her own with a second remaining on the clock to make it a 42-40 game in Niagara’s advantage.

After Manhattan outscored Niagara by 22-15 in the third, they set themselves up for a competitive fourth with momentum on their side. The Jaspers took control of the game for the first half of the quarter as sophomore Makela Sini, Hoier and Davis gave them a four-point lead.

Things went downhill for the Jaspers beginning at the 5:13 mark when the Purple Eagles went on a 12-2 run to give them a 54-48 lead with only 1:51 to play. That stretch helped solidify the Purple Eagles’ victory and they ended up handing the Jaspers a narrow 58-54 loss.

“I thought second half, the team really made a great game of it,” said Vulin. “But unfortunately the turnovers at key times came back in the second half. And it’s hard, when you lose 27 possessions to win a ballgame in the MAAC.”

Manhattan played Marist on Jan. 27 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but have returned to Riverdale to defend their court for another three-game homestand starting on Feb. 1 at 7:00 p.m against Fairfield. This means that over the course of nearly three weeks from Jan. 18 to Feb. 7, the Jaspers will have played in front of their fans in Draddy for six of their seven games.

“I think it gives us a chance to kind of get into a little bit of a rhythm,” said Vulin. “Hopefully at home the rims are a little more friendly. I love being at home, I love playing in Draddy. I think it’s a tremendous atmosphere.”