The Jaspers’ magical season ended Thursday night — but not without a fight.
Playing its first NCAA tournament game in a decade, 13th-seeded Manhattan lost to No. 4 seed Louisville, 71-64, in its round of 64 game in the Midwest Regional at the Amway Center in Orlando. It was only the second loss in the last 13 games for the Jaspers, who finished 25-8.
“This loss definitely hurts,” said senior George Beamon, Manhattan’s leading scorer who struggled in his final college game with only seven points on 3-of-10 shooting. “At least we lost to a great Louisville team... Those guys brought it, but it definitely hurts. Definitely don’t want to feel this ever again, and we want to get our younger guys ready.”
Manhattan led with only 2:35 remaining after Tyler Wilson’s layup, but Luke Hancock, who was the Most Outstanding Player of last year’s tournament during Louisville’s run to the national championship, hit two 3-pointers in the final 1:19 to finally subdue the feisty Jaspers.
Cardinals Coach Rick Pitino made headlines the day before the game when he criticized the selection committee for matching his team up with that of his protégé, Manhattan Coach Steve Masiello, who was a ballboy for the Knicks when Pitino was their head coach; played for Pitino at Kentucky; and was an assistant for him at Louisville. Masiello even helped the Cardinals recruit New York City guard Russ Smith, who scored a game-high 18 points on Thursday.
“It’s emotional,” Masiello said. “You look down, and the guy who kind of made you who you are is your enemy for 40 minutes. So it’s tough. It’s an honor to be on the other sideline, but it’s about the kids. It’s not about me... If I’m going to lose to anyone, I guess [I’d rather] lose to him.”
Added Pitino: “That’s why I didn’t want to play them, because I’m sick inside losing to one of my players.”
Sophomore Ashton Pankey led Manhattan with 16 points, junior Emmy Andujar scored 13 off the bench and senior Michael Alvarado added 10.