by JOHN JACKSON, Senior Writer
The Manhattan College Jaspers closed out the month of January by hosting the Fairfield Stags on the night of Jan. 31 to kick off a four-game homestand.
The Jaspers came into the night 4-16 overall and last place in the MAAC with a 2-6 conference record. The Stags did not fair that much better as they entered Draddy Gymnasium 6-15 overall and 3-6 in the MAAC, which ranked them ninth in the conference. The Jaspers proved to be more than a match for Fairfield as they improved to 5-16 overall and 3-6 in the MAAC with a 62-49 victory.
“We’re in a good state,” Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello said in a postgame interview with Chris Williams of Go Jaspers. “When we’re in a good state and we understand what we could look like and what we could be, we’re a good basketball team, and then you can overlook some mistakes.”
Despite Manhattan’s commanding victory at the end, the Stags stood toe-to-toe with the Jaspers for much of the first half. After junior Tyler Reynolds opened up scoring with a three-pointer to give the Jaspers an early 3-0 lead, freshman Felix Lemetti responded with a three of his own to tie things up. Lemetti followed that up with a jumper 34 seconds later to give Fairfield a 5-3 lead.
The Stags were either tied or in the lead from the 18:54 mark to the 11:05 mark. They could have taken a commanding lead early on if it were not for the heroics of Reynolds, whose 10 points up until that time allowed the Jaspers to only be down by 13-12.
“I just had a different mindset,” said Reynolds in a postgame interview with Jaden Daly of Daly Dose of Hoops. “I think I came out and just wanted to be more aggressive, get to the basket, and show a little more to my game. I’m not just an outside shooter.”
With 11:04 remaining in the half, freshman Tykei Greene’s three-point shot gave the Jaspers a 15-13 lead. Aside from a couple more ties at the 9:35 and 7:42 marks, the Jaspers held the lead for the rest of the game.
Although it was a close game for most of the first half, the Jaspers went on a 15-6 run during the remaining 6:33 to turn a one-point, 21-20 lead, into a 10-point, 36-26 lead heading into halftime.
Both Reynolds and sophomore Ebube Ebube lead the effort in the first half for the Jaspers. Reynolds recorded 12 points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal. Ebube had 10 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal.
While the two 6’7” forwards took care of much of the scoring, the rest of the team was contributing their part as well. Five others had two rebounds and one assist, and three others had at least one steal. They played their usual hard defense overall and Fairfield was limited to 33.3 percent shooting (8-for-24), including 25.0 percent (4-for-16) from the three-point line.
The Jaspers did not come out of halftime sluggish. Ebube and freshman Christian Hinckson turned a 10-point halftime lead into a game-high 16-point lead by the 17:38 mark of the second half.
The Stags did not surrender completely however, as freshman Neftali Alvarez and senior Jonathan Kasibabu responded by scoring six combined points in less than three minutes to make it a 42-32 deficit with 14:55 remaining. Neither team went on a radical run for the remaining 14:55 as the Jaspers led by as much as 15 points, but no less than 10 points.
The Jaspers spread the ball around more in the second which resulted in seven players who had at least one basket, eight who had at least one board and five with at least one assist. They followed up their 48.1 percent shooting (13-for-27) and 54.5 percent three-point shooting (6-for-11) in the first half with a 55.6 percent mark (10-for-18) and 50.0 percent mark (2-for-4) in the second half.
“I was excited about us continuing that momentum, but we certainly weren’t sharp tonight,” Fairfield head coach Sydney Johnson told Daly following the game. “We spent a lot of time preparing for Manhattan, and I don’t think the execution was there. I just don’t think it carried onto the floor.”
Reynolds finished the game with NCAA career-highs in points (17) and rebounds (six), and Ebube finished the game with a career-high in points (15) and a game-high in rebounds (eight). Ebube’s game was encouraging to see as he played behind Zane Waterman last year who left a big void after graduating last spring.
“It hasn’t been a huge adjustment,” Ebube said to Daly in regards to taking over the role left by Waterman. “Playing behind Zane, I just learned from him, and he’s taught me the right things to do. I’ve just been staying to that all offseason and all season long, and it paid off.”
The Jaspers continued their homestand on Saturday, Feb. 2 as they took on the St. Peter’s Peacocks. Their next game will be on Feb. 5 at 7:00 p.m. in Draddy against the first-place Rider Broncs. The game can be viewed on ESPN+.