Manhattan thrives on being the underdog. It’s a role they are used to in this whirlwind of a season of players leaving and a new coach stepping in. Oddly enough, when the Jaspers faced off with Marist at Draddy Gymnasium on Friday night, they had to handle business as the favorites against the last-place Red Foxes.
Manhattan could not handle the moment, and went away easily in an inauspicious 81-58 loss. The last lead Manhattan had was in the first 12 minutes when they were up 12-9.
The Manhattan defense was off their game and had little answer for the Marist trio of Patrick Gardner, Stephane Ingo, and Javon Cooley.
Gardner, who is second in the league at 18.7 points per game, missed a couple of easy looks early before settling in. He and Ingo toyed with Manhattan on certain trips down the floor, following up their strong ending to the first half with a good closing act in the second half.
Gardner had a 20 spot in that second half, highlighted by a personal 10-0 run which included back to back threes for the 6-foot-11 offensive technician.
In completing the rout, the Red Foxes dropped 12 three-pointers on Manhattan as part of the Jaspers’ latest episode of struggling to guard the three. Manhattan is third worst in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in guarding the three as opponents shoot at 36 percent.
Manhattan couldn’t afford to sulk in the loss for too long because they had a trip on tap to Quinnipiac on Sunday afternoon.
Manhattan made the most of their second straight Sunday in Connecticut, following up their win over Fairfield a week earlier with a memorable 72-70 win over the Bobcats. The difference was a game-winning floater at the buzzer by Ant Nelson, completing a 21-point comeback.
The thrilling win was Manhattan’s best triumph of the year. That’s because circumstances were as dire as ever with Manhattan crawling out of the gate and falling behind double-digits just over eight minutes. Meanwhile, plenty of things were going well for Quinnipiac on both ends of the court, and it looked like the Bobcats were on their way to another win over Manhattan after beating the Jaspers 84-65 at Draddy Gymnasium on New Year’s Day.
Down 57-40 with 14 minutes left, the Jaspers made their big push with a 14-0 run that spanned five minutes. Josh Roberts had six points during that stretch, while Nelson had two baskets and freshman Raziel Hayun canned his first three huge threes.
“Next man up mentality,” RaShawn Stores said. “We know what we have in that locker room and it’s all about confidence.”
For Hayun, it was a breakout performance after he was one for his last 12 from three entering the game.
“We scream at Razi whenever he doesn’t shoot the ball,” Nelson said. “Today he was ready to shoot.”
Nelson scored the last six points for Manhattan, culminating with the nifty teardrop floater from the right side of the paint after he got around the Quinnipiac defender. Nelson reacted as if it was going in once it left his hand. He wanted the ball at that moment and everyone bought in.
“My teammates gave me a lot of confidence in the huddle and my coaches said ‘let’s get the job done,’” said Nelson, who finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists after being held scoreless against Marist.
At 9-9 in league, Manhattan sits a half game back of Niagara for the fifth and final bye with a game in hand on the Purple Eagles. A showdown at Siena on March 2 awaits before the Jaspers return home to close out the regular season versus Mount St. Mary’s on March 4.