Heading into today's afternoon match with Siena, Manhattan had won three straight home games against MAAC teams that were predicted to finish in first place.
In 2005-06, the Jaspers defeated Iona by four points in a wild back-and-forth game.
Jared Jordan and the Marist Red Foxes were incapable of outlasting Manhattan's efforts in 2006-07; and, the Jaspers defeated Siena by one point last year.
Today was a different story, and Manhattan fell 68-64 to the MAAC's No. 1 team.
The Jaspers struggled early with Siena's suffocating defense, and their turnovers led to a 20-7 Saints' lead midway through the first half.
Darryl Crawford scored five straight points to pull Manhattan within four points, but Siena led 31-25 at halftime.
Devon Austin hit three consecutive treys to pull the Jaspers within two early in the second half, but Siena responded with a 14-3 run and appeared to be in control.
However, the Jaspers did not quit.
Andrew Gabriel's forced shots prevented the Jaspers from turning their nibbles into bites, but they were able to make it close and Crawford's two foul shots with 18 ticks left brought Manhattan within two.
After Edwin Ubiles nailed two free-throws, Siena rebounded Antoine Pearson's missed three-pointer and the game was over.
With the victory and Niagara's 89-68 loss at Marist, Siena (12-5, 6-0) gained complete control of first place. Ubiles (21 points), Kenny Hasbrouck (17 points), and Ronald Moore (13 points) led the Saints.
For the Jaspers (9-7, 3-3), it was Chris Smith (14 points), Crawford (13 points), Austin (13 points), and Herve Banogle (9 points, 14 rebounds).
How the Jaspers were able to hang in with Siena:
- Despite giving Hasbrouck an open look from deep to start the game, the Jaspers were able to contain the MAAC Preseason Player of the Year in the first half. Forcing Hasbrouck to miss those early shots kept Manhattan in the game.
- Herve Banogle's rebounding
- Spurts of hot offense and solid defense
- Siena's shoddy foul-shooting—Hasbrouck only hit two of his seven foul shots, and the Saints as a team were 11-21.
- Manhattan shot 14-19 from the charity stripe.
- Siena missed multitudes of open three-pointers. Some of the misses came at times when the Jaspers were nibbling away at a lead. Had they hit some of those shots, they may have been able to put the Jaspers down earlier.
What prevented the Jaspers from being able to win:
- Turnovers that turned into Siena fast breaks
- Not running back on defense at all times—Siena pushed the ball up the floor even after Jasper baskets and caught Manhattan unprepared on the other end.
- Excessive big man use—Gabriel and Brandon Adams put the ball on the floor way too much and forced some bad shots instead of dishing the ball to a guard.
- Poor substitutions—Barry Rohrssen still does not have a handle on his team. He has reduced the amount of players played to about eight or nine per game, but the rotations are not always coherent. There were multiple instances when Rohrssen sent a bench player into the game for a hot hand.
- Seven team assists is a disgrace. The Jaspers were able to stick with the Saints, but there was still too much selfish play. Instead of putting their heads down and going to the basket, they should keep their heads up and look for the open man. Austin was open in the corner a handful of times, but his teammates did not always get him the ball. When they did, he converted.
Overall, the Jaspers can be satisfied with the way they played. A few mistakes kept them from winning the game, but that's why basketball is basketball.
Manhattan finishes their four game home stand with games against Loyola and Saint Peter's. Both games should be victories for the Jaspers.