The Manhattan College women’s basketball team has been a tough out in recent years in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play. They showed it again with a 73-39 win over Rider last Saturday. But unfortunately, they found an even tougher challenger in the Fairfield Stags, who hung an 82-58 loss for Manhattan on Monday night.
Manhattan entered Monday night’s game winners of four straight and seemingly on a collision course with Fairfield, who has won seven in a row themselves and are ranked 68th in the country in the Net Rankings. The Stags used the three-pointer to their advantage against Manhattan, nailing 10 of 22 attempts to protect their home court.
The normal version of the Jaspers was on display early, with Manhattan jumping out to as high as a six-point lead at 12-6. Manhattan stayed out ahead through the early stages of the second quarter before the momentum shifted Fairfield’s way thanks to the play of freshman Meghan Andersen.
After being held scoreless over the first 10 minutes, Andersen scored 16 points in the second quarter alone which erased a seven-point Manhattan lead and instead sent the Stags into halftime leading 41-34.
In the second half, Fairfield continued their offensive success by burying seven more threes. The fourth quarter was the big point of separation, with the Stags outscoring Manhattan 20-9 over the final 10 minutes to land on the 24-point margin.
The loss was Manhattan’s worst defeat since losing to Florida Gulf Coast by 31 points in 2021. Manhattan was forced into 20 turnovers, which Fairfield converted into 25 points. Beyond just the three-point line, the Jaspers could not keep pace with points in paint, 42-24, not fast break points.
The lone bright spot for Manhattan on this night was the play of Layla Ozturk, who scored a season-high 13 points. The transfer from Northeastern held a previous scoring high of 14 points, but had yet to perform to the new standard set on Monday since transferring to Manhattan.
Rider win highlights
The disappointment of the Fairfield loss may even stronger considering Manhattan beat Rider in convincing fashion for a 34-point win over the weekend.
The game was not close by any measure, with the Jaspers connecting on 17 more shots than the Broncs and limiting the visitors to only 24 percent shooting from the field.
“I thought we were locked in as a team and our goal was to make a statement with our defense and offense,” Manhattan head coach Heather Vulin said after the Rider game. “We were very dominant on both sides of the ball.”
Petra Juric and Nitzan Amar continued their strong performances this season by combining for 41 points. Juric posted 27 points and 12 rebounds while Amar went for 14 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Each added a steal to their robust stat lines.
“It was a great team win,” said Juric, who is from Croatia. “I scored so much because they [teammates] found me and passed the ball well. I am really happy and proud of this team.”
Manhattan has also benefited from the play of sophomore point guard Anne Bair, who averages 9.3 points and 2.8 assists per game. Bair emerged late in last season when she more than held her own as a back-up for star point guard Dee Dee Davis. With Davis since moving on to the University of Rhode Island, Bair has been one of Manhattan’s leaders, despite only arriving less than two years ago. Bair put in the work during the off-season, and it has reaped rewards early on. After only hitting two threes last year in nine games, Bair is up to 18 in 10 games.
Having Amar, a 5-foot-10 guard, slotted alongside her has also taken pressure off Bair. The emergence of Amar is highlighted by her leading all scorers with 12.7 points per game. The Israeli native also shoots 46 percent from three to further help her cause.
Factor in the might of the front court with Juric, 8.2 points and 7.7 rebounds, and Jade Blagrove, 8.6 points and 7.7 rebounds, Vulin has as complete of a team yet that goes eight strong in the rotation and also has others who can step up in case of injuries.
Saturday was the complete reversal from Monday night, considering Rider led after the first quarter against Manhattan like the Jaspers did to Fairfield. But after trailing 11-10, Manhattan outscored Rider by 35 points the rest of the way, on the strength of an impressive 48 rebounds and 21 assists. Manhattan also forced 13 Rider turnovers.
Five of Manhattan’s six wins against Division I opponents have come by double-digit margins. The only non-D1 game was a scrimmage against Queens College, a 26-point rout for the Jaspers.
“We are just excited to start the conference season,” Vulin said.
“We think it’s going to be an incredible season.”
Manhattan has two more non-conference games at Long Island University and Hofstra before the schedule turns back to MAAC play the rest of the way.
In 2024, the Jaspers will be eyeing a third straight apperance in the MAAC Championship game.