In the words of Mad magazine, the "usual gang of idiots" showed up for Manhattan on Thursday night.
The Jaspers gave Manhattan fans hope in the first half, but once again fell short, 74-71.
Manhattan (7-14, 2-9 MAAC) was off to a great start, jumping out to an early 13-4 lead. Rico Pickett had 11 of the first 13 points.
Rider (12-11, 5-6 MAAC) climbed back into the game, staying within one point at the 12-minute TV timeout in the first half. But Pickett would catch fire, and the Jaspers would go up 31-19 with 7:08 left in the first half.
Once again, Rider found a way back into the game. The Broncs cut the lead to 31-27 in the final four minutes.
Pickett would score eight straight points in the final two-and-a-half minutes, and the Jaspers went into halftime with a 39-30 advantage.
Pickett dominated the first half. He scored 28 points in the first half alone on 12-of-18 shooting. His 28 in the first half was one point short of his career high for a whole game. Pickett made three of five three-pointers.
In addition to Pickett having a mind-blowing first half, Andrew Gabriel also stepped up after having a stretch of rough games. Gabriel made his first three baskets, leading to six early points. Gabriel also had five rebounds and two blocks in the first half.
Darryl Crawford was absent in terms of scoring during the first half. Crawford only took one shot, and he missed it. However, Crawford did get three assists.
The Jaspers went into the locker room with Pickett looking in the face of a Jasper record and the whole Jasper squad ready to end their five-game losing streak.
Flashing back, in the first meeting this season between Manhattan and Rider, Manhattan led by as many as 16 in the first half, as Pickett was off to a great start. Manhattan would blow that lead, and Mike Ringgold's tip-in with six seconds left gave Rider a 65-64 victory.
Talk about déjà vu—the Jaspers held a double-digit lead in the first half but would not be able to replicate the first 20 minutes in the second half.
Pickett would need to keep scoring if the Jaspers hoped to keep a commanding lead. His second half looked promising after he hit a jump shot on the first possession of the second half. However, Pickett would only hit one more shot for the rest of the half.
Rider would end up making half of their shots in the second half. The Broncs outscored the Jaspers 20-11 in the first 10 minutes of the second half to take a 50-49 lead, their first lead since the first basket of the game, when they led 2-0.
The lead was then traded back and forth. Crawford kept the Jaspers in the game, scoring 15 points in the second half.
With Rider trailing 65-62 with under 2:30 left, Rider's Justin Robinson took matters into his own hands. Robinson hit a jump shot to cut the lead to 65-64, and after Mohamed Koita split a pair of free throws, Robinson drained a three-pointer to give the Broncs a 67-66 advantage.
As the clock ticked into the final minute, the Jaspers bench exploded after a two-handed dunk by Koita, giving Manhattan a 70-69 lead. The momentum was going towards the Jaspers as the shot clock wound down below five seconds for Rider. As Robinson had down of the previous possessions, he corralled a pass from Ryan Thompson and knocked down a three-pointer.
The Jaspers trailed 72-70. Crawford took the ball on the wing and drove to the basket. In the act, Crawford drew a foul on Jhamar Youngblood with 22.9 seconds, and he went to the line with a chance to tie the game with two free throws.
Another flashback went through the minds of Jasper fans. In their previous game against Siena, Crawford was shooting two free throws with a chance to cut the Siena lead to one possession in the final minute. He could not hit the first pressure free throw, as it hit off the back of the rim and rolled out.
Crawford's first free throw against Rider hit off the back of the rim and rolled out. Just like Crawford did against Siena, he hit the second free throw.
As usual, poor coaching kept the Jaspers from making a comeback in the final seconds.
Justin Robinson is far and away Rider's best free throw shooter at 91 percent. With nearly 23 seconds left, there was enough time for Manhattan to trap Robinson when the Broncs undoubtedly gave him the ball and then foul the next person that the ball went to.
The Jaspers did the right thing by trapping Robinson when the ball was inbounded. Robinson passed to Ryan Thompson, a 78.3 percent free throw shooter, and then Thompson threw the ball upcourt to Novar Gadson, a 77.8 percent free throw shooter.
Although Thompson and Gadson are not "bad" free throw shooters, they are still much worse than Robinson, and there is a much better chance that one of those two would miss at least one of the free throws.
Manhattan did not foul either of them; instead, 14 seconds came off the clock, and the ball fell back into the hands of Justin Robinson. Robinson was fouled, and he shot two free throws with nine seconds left. The 91 percent free throw shooter would not let the big opportunity pass through his hands—he hit both free throws.
The Jaspers brought the ball up the court and called a timeout with 5.1 seconds left. Out of the timeout, the Jaspers inbounded to Pickett, who put up a three-pointer as time expired. Pickett's shot went halfway through but bounced out.
Ryan Thompson, the brother of Sacramento Kings center Jason Thompson, led Rider with 25 points, playing all 40 minutes. Thompson shot 10-of-17 from the field, while hitting all three of his free throws. He continued his very good overall play with nine rebounds and four assists.
Despite not leading the team in scoring, Justin Robinson was the reason that the Broncs won. Robinson caught fire in the second half, scoring all 16 of his points in the final 20 minutes. Robinson scored 10 points in the final 1:45 and hit a jump shot to give Rider their final lead, and then he hit two free throws to give Rider a three-point lead with nine seconds left.
The Rider big men both scored in double digits. Novar Gadson scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Mike Ringgold scored 12 points. Luckily for the Broncs, Ringgold did not shoot any free throws. Ringgold is a 30 percent free throw shooter, among the nation's worst.
Rider only had four bench points.
Manhattan did a much better job limiting offensive rebounds for the Broncs. The Jaspers outrebounded Rider 33-32.
Rico Pickett led Manhattan with 32 points, 28 of them being in the first half. Pickett only made two of nine second half shots. He shot 4-of-9 from three-point range.
Darryl Crawford scored 15 points, all in the second half. Crawford also had five rebounds and five assists. Crawford made eight of 10 free throws but could not hit a big one in the final minute.
Andrew Gabriel scored eight points and had 11 rebounds. After making his first three shots, Gabriel only made one of his last five.
Despite only scoring two points, Patrick Bouli had a good all-around performance with five assists, four rebounds, and two steals.
Mohamed Koita and Antoine Pearson were the only Manhattan players to score off the bench. Koita had five, and Pearson had six.
Rider plays their next game at Fairfield (15-6, 8-3 MAAC) on Saturday.
Manhattan's next game is at St. Peter's (12-9, 7-4 MAAC) on Sunday.
Picture credit to gojaspers.com
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