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Tatum, Cajou help Manhattan College ‘steal’ win

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Having already matched last year’s win total, the Manhattan College women’s basketball kept its turnaround season going in a 63-53 victory over Monmouth last Sunday.

Three Jaspers scored in double figures while the combination of Amani Tatum and Gabby Cajou earned 15 steals.

The win boosted Manhattan’s overall record to 8-12, and 5-4 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference — good for fifth place.

The Jaspers offense struggled in the first half, down 21-20 to a Monmouth team that toted a 5-14 record. Manhattan scored just six points in the second quarter, but a halftime speech from coach Heather Vulin seemingly turned the game around for the Jaspers, who then put up 26 notches in the third  and 17 more in the fourth to earn the victory.

“She always wants us to do the best that we can,” Kayla Grimme said of Vulin. “Coach put us to the challenge at halftime, and we both (with Tatum) met it.”

The win shows how much the Jaspers love to play at home, the coach said.

”I felt like once we started to go out and play with our energy that I know we can play with, the crowd really got into it,” Vulin said. “I thought Amani and Kayla just led us to victory in this game. I was really pleased with my seniors.”

Grimme was able to convert a clutch three-pointer in the final seconds of the third quarter, ushering in momentum for the Jaspers as they went up 46-38. It was Grimme’s only three-pointer of the game, finishing the night with a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds along with five assists and a pair of blocks.

Tatum also put on a show Sunday, scoring 11 points in the second half while registering eight steals. The senior guard just had a nose for the ball against Monmouth, which helps to get steals.

“I can anticipate whatever they’ll do next, so that’s why I just go for it,” Tatum said. “Usually I end up getting it.”

Vulin touted the Jaspers’ valiant defensive effort in the win.

“Our defense was the difference maker,” she said. “We made big steals when we needed to. Their ability to use their athleticism and quickness is great, and our defense allowed better shot opportunities for us.”

Scoring off fast breaks became common for the Jaspers during their second-half run. The backcourt duo of Tatum and Gabby Cajou combined for 15 steals, creating easy layups and open jump shots for Manhattan.

Cajou possesses similar court characteristics to that of Tatum despite being a sophomore, and has what appears to be a bright future with the Jaspers. 

But Grimme thinks Manhattan has a talented mix of veterans and younger role players this season.

“We have the fact that we have a lot of maturity on the team,” Grimme said. “We have four or five seniors. Some of us have been playing for five years together. We can really read each other and know what we’re about to do. 

“We also have fresh eyes and fresh moves on the court with a lot of our talented freshmen that are coming in and getting big minutes. It’s a really nice combination.”

Like Grimme, Vulin is excited about what her team has accomplished this season after a bumpy ride through at 8-22 campaign last year.

“I feel like the reason that the freshman are playing so well is because the upperclassmen want them to play well,” Vulin said. 

“They’ve really created a tremendous atmosphere and comfort level for them. It’s a special group, and I think that we have good things ahead for us.”

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