Dating back to 1997, the Manhattan Jaspers and the Iona Gaels, separated by a mere six miles, have played in hard fought, close, exciting games. Since 1997, these two teams have played in four overtime games and 16 of their 26 meetings have been decided by 10 points or less.
The most memorable of these games was in the 2005-06 season. Both teams were 13-4 entering the final game of the season, and a conference championship was on the line. Manhattan had already beaten Iona by 19 in their first meeting. The Gaels led by as much as 10 in the second half, but the Jaspers, led by Jeff Xavier, rallied on an 18-7 run to take a one-point lead. Iona retook the lead with just over three minutes left. Jason Wingate responded with a basket to give the Jaspers a 72-70 lead. Wingate later hit two free throws with seven seconds left to ice the game. The Jaspers won 78-74.
The rivalry has died down ever since Jeff Ruland left Iona and Bobby Gonzalez left Manhattan, leaving both teams in shambles. Kevin Willard has led Iona back to being a contender in the MAAC, with a chance at postseason play. Barry Rohrssen has tried to do the same with Manhattan, but every year his team has finished in the middle of the MAAC.
In 2006-07, Iona was a miserable 2-28 and the Jaspers went 13-17. I cannot speak for the game at Iona, but when the Gaels came to Draddy Gymnasium, it was near empty and silent.
Last year, the rivalry started to pick up a little more. In their first meeting of last year, Iona and Manhattan met in Madison Square Garden. Before the game even started, fans were jawing at each other from across the court. Iona fans yelled at the Jasper players as they went through layup lines.
Iona jumped out to an early lead and the Jaspers did not lead once—but that did not keep the players from playing hard and all of the fans from getting involved.
With under eight minutes to play in the first half, Herve Banogle got an Iona player in a headlock and a fight broke out. Players came a couple of steps out onto the court before refs and both coaches issued them back to the bench. The refs and the coaches ran to the Iona basket to break up the fight and give out technical fouls.
Manhattan would end up being humiliated in the Garden, going 16-56 from the field that day.
However, the tables would turn for Manhattan later in the season. Chris Smith was gelling early on and the Jaspers got an early lead in one of the uglier meetings between these two teams. The Jaspers led 19-11 at halftime.
The Jaspers extended their lead in a better second half and went on to win 52-39, with Chris Smith scoring 19 and Darryl Crawford making all 11 of his free throws.
These teams meet again at Draddy Gymnasium on Friday, Jan. 22. The Gaels have emerged as one of the better teams in the MAAC, currently in third place. Manhattan has had immense struggles as of late and currently are eighth in the MAAC.
Manhattan needs to run the floor on both offense and defense if they hope to defeat the Gaels.
Keys For The Gaels
Crash The Boards. Last year, when Iona beat Manhattan, the Gaels outrebounded the Jaspers 42-24. In the second meeting, the Gaels lost while being outrebounded 43-29. Rebounding could be the deciding factor in Friday's game.
Take and Make the Three. Iona shoots 37.9 percent from beyond the arc and has multiple players who can be a threat on the perimeter. Although Manhattan's perimeter defense has slowly improved this year, it is not good enough to shut down the Gaels. Kyle Smyth, Jonathan Huffman, Rashon Dwight, and Trinity Fields all shoot better than 40 percent from three-point range. Scott Machado shoots 37.8 percent and Milan Prodanovic, despite being streaky, shoots 36.6 percent from beyond the arc and has the ability to get in a groove.
Keys For The Jaspers
Share The Ball. Against Siena, Manhattan got out to an early 18-10 lead and had five assists in that time. The Jaspers would not get another assist in the first half and would only pick up seven assists in the first 16 minutes of the second half. The Jaspers would go on runs when they would share the ball. They must share the ball against Iona.
Good Looks For Rico. Rico Pickett is now averaging 17 points per game, and over 23 ppg in January. He has shown the ability to take over a game. The Jaspers need to find a way to get good shots for Pickett in order to get him going early on.
Convert Free Throws. The Jaspers converted 21-29 free throws against Canisius and 23-26 against Fairfield. Despite losing both of these games, these free throws kept them in the game. The Jaspers only made 5-9 free throws against Siena and lost by double digits. The Jaspers need to make their free throws, and to do that they need to draw some fouls.
Most likely, Iona's balanced attack and three-point shooting will over power the Jaspers. The Gaels will get out to an early lead. Iona's 20.3 fouls per game will keep the Jaspers within striking distance, if Manhattan can convert their free throws. The only chance for Manhattan to pull out a victory will be if Rico Pickett (16.9 ppg) and Darryl Crawford (14.9 ppg) both have above par performances.
Pick: Iona 73, Manhattan 65
Tip-Off: Friday, January 22, 9 PM @ Draddy Gymnasium
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