by Pete Janny, Sports Editor
The 10-seed Manhattan Jaspers will be vying for a spot in the MAAC Tournament Quarterfinals when they meet the seven-seed Fairfield Stags tonight at 7:30 pm.
Coming off an interesting weekend series, both teams are looking to get the last laugh in their most important game of the seasons. Last Thursday, the Jaspers rolled past the Stags with a 69-59 win that snapped a two-game skid for Manhattan. A day later, Fairfield looked like an entirely different team with junior Jake Wojcik dropping a career-high 33 points on 5-of-10 shooting from three and 10-of-10 from the line.
In game two, the Stags as a team shot 49 percent from the field, including 11-of-26 from three. Fairfield will likely need another big game from Wojcik in order to match those numbers. But if they can, Manhattan will need to counteract that with a strong shooting performance as well. The Jaspers are only shooting 38 percent from the field this season and are sitting at 27 percent from three.
Manhattan’s shooting always seems to receive a big boost when junior big man Warren Williams has a big game. Williams, who was named to the second team All-MAAC along with Ant Nelson, torched Fairfield with 20 points and five boards on 8-of-10 shooting. In tonight’s game, Williams will be relied upon to carry a good share of the scoring, especially if Manhattan’s guard play can’t get going.
Williams’ all-around game has evolved this year after Pauly Paulicap chose to transfer, which opened up the starting center job for the former St. Benedict’s Prep standout. In the regular season, Williams averaged 11.5 points-per-game and 7.5 rebounds-per-game.
Joining Williams on the second team All-MAAC is Ant Nelson, who has enjoyed a solid first season in Riverdale after departing Seton Hall. Manhattan’s offense has looked much better when Nelson is making the extra pass and finding holes to attack the rim. He will be matched up with Fairfield freshman Caleb Green, who has emerged as one of the better young players in the league this season and scored a combined 33 points in the two games against Manhattan.
On the surface, it looks as if the matchup between the two schools is becoming a rivalry. The Jaspers have beaten the Stags in the opening round of the last two MAAC Tournaments, with last year’s win coming by an 18-point margin. Flash forward to Friday night, the anger brewing between both programs reached a new high when a scuffle broke out at around the twelfe-minute mark, almost leading to the benches clearing. Even Steve Masiello had to be restrained by Ant Nelson as he exchanged words with an assistant coach from Fairfield to cap off an altogether frustrating game for the Jaspers. That melee produced eight technical fouls and got the assistant coach from Fairfield ejected.
If Manhattan wants to go dancing, they will have to win four games in a row after winning no more than three in a row during the regular season. The journey starts tonight with Fairfield, and then they will take it one game at a time from there.