by Whit Anderson, Staff Writer
MB: MANHATTAN 65, MARIST 56
The Manhattan Jaspers(12-14, 8-9 MAAC) came into Wednesday night’s game against the Marist Red Foxes(7-19, 6-11 MAAC) needing to break their four-game losing streak that had come at a time when every team wants to be playing their best basketball ahead of the MAAC tournament. Hosting Marist at Draddy Gym, the Jaspers convincingly defeated the Red Foxes 65-56 in what might have been their most important win this year.
From the start, it was clear the Jaspers were playing with a sense of urgency. On offense they continuously dumped the ball into Pauly Paulicap, where he used his post game to score the first five points for Manhattan. The lead then ballooned to 11-0 largely due to the Jaspers’ suffocating defense that caused Marist to turnover the ball and give up multiple transition baskets.
Marist wasn’t helping themselves either. Their poor defensive rotations allowed the Jaspers to get easy layups inside, and their lackadaisical offensive execution caused them to turn the ball over four times in the first six minutes. Tykei Greene and Elijah Buchanan capitalized on their giveaways with fastbreak layups to get it to 17-7 with 14:07 to go in the first half.
Manhattan’s effort waned at times with Paulicap on the bench. This allowed sophomore Braden Bell to get open from three and from the midrange to bring the game within five. Bell was one of the few bright spots for Marist, giving them 20 points off the bench. He was the main catalyst for a 13-4 run against Manhattan that cut the Jaspers’ lead to 21-20 with 6:30 remaining. Both teams reversed roles during this period, as it was now Marist giving their all on defense to force Manhattan turnovers.
The Jaspers didn’t let this rattle them though. They quickly settled down and got back to their game plan that had worked so well at the beginning. Led by Paulicap, Manhattan made a concentrated effort to contest all of the Red Foxes’ shots in the final minutes of the half. Marist went from shooting well over 50% to just 44% with 3:21 left. During this 7-0 run for Manhattan, the Jaspers’ increased their rebounding margin to 14-9, which factored heavily into getting a 28-20 lead. 22 of these Manhattan points came from inside the paint.
After a corner three by Greene at the buzzer, the Jaspers went into halftime leading 34-22. Their 11 assists in the first 20 minutes demonstrated how well the ball was moving on offense. But what was even more impressive was their team defense, getting Marist down to 38 percent shooting and holding leading scorer Michael Cubbage to just two points. Paulicap and Greene led the Manhattan scoring attack with 11 and 9, respectively.
The start of the second half told the same story for Manhattan. The sophomore trio of Greene, Buchanan, and Samir Stewart played textbook perimeter defense to make life incredibly difficult for the Marist guards. However, the Red Fox players weren’t having a great time either. Paulicap continued to be a menace in the rebounding department, grabbing multiple offensive boards even with as many as three Marist players trying to box him out at one time. His relentless motor extended the Manhattan lead to 41-27 at the 14:19 mark and he ended his night with 16 points and six rebounds.
Despite Marist’s best efforts, the Jaspers didn’t allow them to get the game within striking distance thanks to some big plays that halted the Red Foxes’ momentum. This was encapsulated by one play where Manhattan grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed free throw to set up a Stewart corner three. The crowd went crazy just from the sheer determination of the Jaspers, and the lead expanded to 46-30.
Speaking of Stewart, the sophomore guard had one of his best games of the season on both ends of the floor. His defense, like always, was impressive. But even more importantly, he looked as confident as ever shooting the basketball. He finished with 13 points on an efficient 2-of-3 shooting from the field and a 7-of-9 showing from the free throw line.
When asked if this was a sign of things to come for Stewart, Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello explained that, “He’s a high level shooter. I think the big thing for him is shot selection. It’s one of the hardest things to teach in basketball and we forget he’s a sophomore because he’s playing so many minutes.”
The rest of the game was more of the same story. Marist did their best to stay in it, but the 30-23 Manhattan rebounding advantage and seven more team fouls of their own was too much to overcome. The Jaspers put in an effort that would give any opponent issues. The only negatives for Manhattan was their 18 turnovers and 25 percent shooting (4-of-16) from three. More experienced MAAC teams would’ve capitalized off these deficiencies.
The win upped Manhattan’s total to 12 on the season. Furthermore, Manhattan’s losing streak finally ended with just three games left before the tournament. Masiello, however, wants to just take it one game at a time.
“Tonight was all about Marist, and now it’s time to reset and focus on the next team up,” Masiello said.
The Jaspers will play Monmouth (16-12, 10-7 MAAC) on Sunday at 2 p.m. at OceanFirst Bank Center in one of their last major road tests of the regular season.