WB: Manhattan 54, Iona 32
by Pete Janny, Sports Editor
The Manhattan College women’s basketball team (8-10, 5-4 MAAC) has shown a lot of great things this season on the court. The team started off 3-0 in MAAC play and were playing their best ball all season.
That’s until the team turned in two disappointing performances last week against Marist and Fairfield in which the team was outscored by a combined 45 points across the two games. The real damage was done on Thursday night at Fairfield where the team suffered an ugly 87-47 loss.
Having the chance to host the Iona Gaels (4-12, 3-4 MAAC) at home this past Saturday afternoon proved to be the best cure to their recent woes. After winning both matchups against the Gaels a season ago, the Jaspers turned in their most dominant performance of the season in a 54-32 blowout in front of a relaxed crowd at Draddy.
After scoring 17 points at Fairfield two days earlier, freshman Emily LaPointe showed off her offensive talent early on that set the tone for her team-high 12 points in a game that Manhattan led for all but seven minutes of.
Down 11-8 with two minutes left in the second quarter, Manhattan responded with two threes from sophomore Sydney Watkins and LaPointe respectively that positioned the Jaspers with a slim 14-13 advantage after one period of play.
The defensive energy was noticeably better from Manhattan in the second quarter on their way to out scoring the Gaels 11-5 for the period. Iona was unable to get into a rhythm from anywhere on the offensive end as the Jaspers held them to 15.4 percent shooting (2-of-13) for the quarter to propel themselves to a 25-18 lead at the break. While the Gaels were simply missing a lot of shots in that second quarter, the Manhattan defense definitely contributed to their shortcomings. Manhattan’s defensive aggressiveness in the quarter was highlighted by two shot clock violations on Iona and three emphatic blocks from senior Pamela Miceus. She would finish the game with four rejections, further proving why she’s one of the MAAC’s elite shot blockers.
Things went from bad to awful for Iona in the second half.
After a made jumper by Shyan Mwai at 8:32 in the third quarter cut the Manhattan lead to 28-20, the Jaspers’ put together a 20-0 run over the next eight minutes to take a commanding 48-20 lead heading into the final quarter of play. Unsurprisingly, seven of those 20 points came from LaPointe.
Iona missed a lot of close shots on offense in the third quarter and had no defensive answer to Manhattan’s offensive surge. With the Gaels starting to look demoralized on the court, Manhattan made sure to feed junior Courtney Warley often out of the break to try to get her going on offense. Six of her 11 points on the afternoon came in the third quarter off of a few nice passes that set her up for easy layups. In addition to scoring 11 points, she added 11 rebounds and five steals.
“She’s like a unicorn,” Vulin said when talking about Warley’s versatility. “There are times when I switch her on to the other team’s top guard player so it shows I trust her.”
Coming into the game, Warley knew Iona was a favorable matchup for her due to Manhattan’s height advantage over the Gaels.
“We knew going into the game that the bigs would have a size advantage and my teammates did really well finding me today,” Warley said.
Iona’s scoreless drought carried over into the fourth quarter until Paulla Weekes converted on a layup down low that made the score 48-22 with 7:25 left in regulation. The basket did nothing useful for the Gaels but snap a scoring drought that lasted 11 minutes. The Gaels only scored 14 points in the second half after only pouring in 18 in the first half.
Manhattan only shot 20 percent (3-of-15) in the fourth quarter, but that did not factor in. What was most frustrating to Vulin in her team’s win was Manhattan’s carelessness with the ball at times. The Jaspers turned the ball over 22 times in total after giving the ball away 18 times at Fairfield. Vulin was at least happy her team became more disciplined with the ball as the game progressed.
“We had 13 turnovers in the first half and only one in the second half so credit to my team for making that adjustment,” Vulin said of Manhattan’s increased discipline in the second half. “A lot of them were dead ball turnovers so at least Iona didn’t have a chance to run with the ball.”
Vulin was happy to see the Manhattan defense return to its typical form after struggling in recent performances. Her team finished with 14 steals, while forcing 24 turnovers from Iona.
“We scored 22 points off their TOs so that was definitely a difference maker in this game,” Vulin said. “Because we were so locked in, we really made it a tough night for Iona.”
While Warley was happy with the way the team responded after Thursday night’s loss, she recognizes there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
“I think it was definitely a step in the right direction but we still have a lot to learn from both the Fairfield game and this game,” Warley said.
Manhattan will hit the road to play Rider (14-2, 7-0 MAAC) in Lawrenceville, New Jersey on Thursday, January 30th before coming home to face Saint Peter’s (5-12, 2-6 MAAC) on Saturday, February 1st. Tip-off for that home game is slated for 2 PM.