by Pete Janny & Nicole Fitzsimmons, Sports Editor & Staff Writer
For the first time since losing to Canisius in the quarterfinals of the MAAC Tournament last March, the Manhattan College men’s basketball team returned to the hardwood last Tuesday night at Draddy Gymnasium for a meeting with the Delaware State Hornets. The team then played their second game of the season on Saturday night when they hosted the University of Albany Great Danes for a good early-season test.
On Tuesday night, Manhattan played like an entirely different team compared to what they showcased last year. Up against Delaware State of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, the Jaspers fed off the energy of an electric Draddy crowd on their way to posting a 85-74 victory in a game in which they never trailed.
Before you could even blink, the Jaspers held an impressive 13-0 lead in this game thanks to some early offensive success. The scoring started when senior Pauly Paulicapp threw down an alley-oop feed from sophomore Elijah Buchanan sixteen seconds in. Paulicapp, who played in just 10 games last season due to injury, set the tone for the night with that slam. The scoring continued with Buchanan nailing his first shot at the 19:02 mark for two of his 12 points on the half. Then, sophomore point guard Samir Stewart got in on the fun by nailing a three-pointer to make the score 7-0. The final six points of the scoring run came from three made free throws from sophomore Tykei Greene and a three-point play from Buchanan on a drive to the hoop following a Manhattan steal.
“I thought we did a good job of playing sound basketball and were just selfless,” head coach Steve Masiello said regarding his team’s hot start.
Just like the Manhattan fans, Masiello is also excited about Buchanan’s potential.
“He’s one of the more gifted scorers we have on our team and for him offense comes so easily,” Masiello said about Buchanan’s abilities.
Now down by 13, Delaware State needed to find ways to execute.
The Hornets proceeded to get their first basket of the night at the 16:49 mark when sophomore John Stansbury completed an old-fashioned three-point play off a drive to the hoop. The Hornets then scored again 35 seconds later off a mid-range shot by Ameer Bennett to cut Manhattan’s lead to eight at 13-5. Buchanan then quelled the visitors’ brief scoring run with a mid-range make at 15:55 that pushed Manhattan’s lead back to double-digits.
The next few minutes proved just how critical Manhattan’s fast start was as Delaware State progressively fought their way back into the game. After a sluggish five-minute stretch from Manhattan, a made free throw by Delaware State’s Pinky Wiley brought his team to within five at 19-14 with 10:51 remaining in the half.
In need of a spark, Manhattan sophomore Christian Hinckson stepped up for his team.
After contributing a vicious block on the defensive end, Hinckson came down the court to bury a straightaway three-pointer at 9:08 that pushed the Jaspers’ lead to eight at 26-18. After averaging a modest 3.6 points-per-game last season, Hinckson seems to have added a three-point stroke to his skillset in the offseason after posing no threat from downtown last season.
Delaware State would cut into the Manhattan lead again, this time getting within four at 26-22 when Lance Singh connected on a jump shot at the 8:03 mark. Fortunately, Ethan Lasko stepped up for Manhattan by nailing his first of three three-pointers to give Manhattan breathing room at 29-22. The ensuing couple of minutes were characterized by Delaware State getting to the line with regularity, making five free throws on six attempts to help get the deficit back to four at 33-29 with 4:13 left.
With their lead starting to shrink, the Jaspers received big boosts from Hinckson and Buchanan over the final three and a half minutes of the half.
After Hinckson hit two free throws to make the score 35-29, Buchanan supplied his second three-point play of the half on a drive in which he absorbed contact and found a way to finish. 30 seconds later, Buchanan was on the move again, responding to a Delaware State three with another driving layup that put Manhattan up 40-32. The final minute of the half featured a made free throw by freshman center Adam Cisse and another three from Hinckson that gave Manhattan a 44-35 lead at the half.
After exchanging buckets over the opening few possessions of the second half, a layup by Pinky at the 18:05 mark brought the visitors to within five at 48-43. However, just like the previous comeback attempts by Delaware State, Manhattan managed to stave this one off thanks to another timely shot. It was Stewart doing the honors this time for Manhattan with a corner three-pointer that increased his team’s lead to eight at 51-43.
Looking to bury the Hornets, Manhattan unleashed Ethan Lasko and his underdog mentality.
Up 52-45, Lasko rewarded Masiello for the trust placed in him by nailing back-to-back three-pointers that give Manhattan their largest lead of the game since being up 13-0. For a player that saw limited action last season, it was special to see the former walk-on at Indiana University prove his worth to the team by hitting both those shots. Lasko finished with a career-high nine points on 3-for-3 shooting from deep.
Manhattan cruised the rest of the way with their lead ballooning to as high as 18 when junior Nehemiah Mack dribbled the length of the court and converted his layup despite being fouled. His ensuing free-throw made the score 70-53. The closest Delaware State would get again was nine after a layup by Stansbury with 33 seconds left. When it was all said and done, the scoreline read 85-74 in favor of Manhattan.
Paulicap, Stewart, Hinckson, Greene, and Buchanan were the five players to score in double digits for Manhattan. Greene led the way with 15 points. Buchanan was second in scoring with 12 points, while Paulicap, Stewart, and Hinckson all chipped in 10 apiece. The Jaspers ended the night 8-for-33 from three, but were 29-for-37 from the line.
Saturday night’s performance was impressive too as Manhattan pulled out a scrappy 57-51 win over Albany to improve to 2-0 on the season for the second time in the last three seasons. Contrary to the Delaware State game, this contest posed a greater challenge for Manhattan against an Albany program that is competitive every year.
The opening minutes of the game were a struggle for both teams with neither able to get into an offensive rhythm. Without the contributions of senior forward Romani Hansen, Albany would’ve likely dug themselves in an early hole.
Romani fueled the Albany offense in the opening stages, scoring his team’s first seven points to help them jump out to an early 7-4 lead by the 15:45 mark. After a time-out, things got worse for Manhattan with Albany pouring in eight more unanswered points to go up 15-4. Whereas Albany already had three three-pointers by the next time-out at 11:34, Manhattan was 0-for-6 from three to open the game. Instead of lettings things get ugly, Manhattan was able to respond with five straight points by virtue of two made free throws from Hinckson and a three by Stewart from the left side to make the score 15-9.
As the first half progressed, Manhattan remained right on Albany’s tail.
In a rut from beyond the arc, Manhattan senior Tyler Reynolds finally got one to go from three at the 4:21 mark of the first half that cut his team’s deficit to four at 22-18. Manhattan’s resilience was on display yet again two minutes later when a Tykei Greene three moved Manhattan to within three at 26-23. Unfortunately, Manhattan would take their foot of the gas over the final two minutes of the half with Albany mustering five unanswered to make the score 31-23 at halftime.
In need of some halftime adjustments, Manhattan probably took notice of their 3-for-13 shooting from deep in the first half because the team only took seven in the second half.
Panic started to set in just seventeen seconds into the half when Albany sharpshooter Cameron Healy drilled a three to make the lead as high as eleven for the second time.
Luckily, Manhattan would retaliate with a furious 10-0 run that injected some life into Draddy Gymnasium.
During this run, Manhattan did all of their damage from inside. Paulicap started it off with a strong finish down low at 19:21 before adding one from the line at 17:21 after a two-minute scoreless stretch from both teams. 30 seconds later, Buchanan re-emerged with a fancy finish off a coast-to-coast drive to the hoop that cut the deficit to six at 34-28. Buchanan’s heroics continued when the sophomore proceeded to knock down a step-back jumper and then added one from the line to make it a one possession game. The run culminated with what was arguably the best highlight of the night when Paulicap started the fast break and fed Greene for a pretty reverse layup at 14:01 that brought Manhattan to within one at 34-33.
With strong crowd support behind them, Manhattan’s exciting play would continue thanks in large part to Stewart.
After falling down six again at 41-35, Manhattan responded with a 6-0 run in which freshman Adam Cisse tipped back a miss for his first career basket followed by two three-pointers from Stewart that tied the score at 41. Manhattan then used this newfound momentum to take their first lead of the game at 46-43 when Greene buried his second three of the night at the 6:10 mark.
After relinquishing this lead, Manhattan soon regained it thanks to the inspired play of Greene.
First, a missed layup by Buchanan led to an easy putback for Greene at 3:11 before Greene swiped the lead back with a free throw at 2:32 to make the score 50-49. Two more lead changes would follow with Antonio Rizzuto putting the Great Danes back up by one before a Paulicap layup with 1:22 remaining made the score 52-41 in favor of Manhattan. In need of one final blow, Manhattan turned to Greene again who delivered an old-fashioned three-point play with 47 seconds left that helped seal the Manhattan win.
Greene led the way with 17 points and nine rebounds followed by 14 points from Stewart on 3-of-7 shooting from deep. Paulicap chipped in eight points and nine rebounds, while Buchanan added nine points and eight rebounds.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Masiello said following the win over Albany. “I thought they were extremely resilient tonight coming back from two double-digit deficits by showing a lot of character.”
Manhattan is now set to embark on a six-game road trip with the team not returning to Draddy until a meeting with Western Michigan on Saturday, December 14th at 7 PM.