The Manhattan Jaspers have given fans some hope in the last week. First, Rhamel Brown, the 6'6" forward shot blocker form Transit Tech High School, verbally committed to Manhattan.
In pictures, Brown looks stronger than all of Manhattan's current big men combined.
Also, Poughkeepsie guard Dayvon Whitaker committed to Manhattan for the 2011-2012 season.
Just a few days later, 6'6" small forward Joel Wright committed to Manhattan. Wright was originally committed to Fordham and was attending prep school this season. When Fordham fired its coach, Wright uncommitted from Fordham and started being recruiting by many northeast schools, including West Virginia, Providence, and Seton Hall. Wright chose Manhattan, and now the Jaspers are putting together a very good recruiting class.
Manhattan (11-19, 4-14 MAAC) was swept by Loyola (13-17, 6-12) in the regular season. Jasper fans could not think that Manhattan could lose to the same team three times in less than a month.
Loyola got out to a quick 2-0 lead on its first possession—this would be Loyola's only lead for the entire game.
A 14-0 run by Manhattan got the offense going. Rico Pickett led the charge for the Jaspers, as they took the lead to as many as 42-23 in the first half with 5:26 left. Manhattan would take a 51-36 lead into halftime. Pickett scored 23 first half points.
In the second half, Loyola quickly cut the lead to seven points. After trading baskets for a few minutes, Loyola took advantage of a Manhattan mistake and cut the lead to 67-62.
In my house, the "I can't believe it" and "here they go again" cries started. The Jaspers were blowing a big lead and fans were dumbfounded.
Out of everybody on the offense, freshman guard George Beamon sparked the Jasper offense. Beamon is averaging only 3.1 points on the year. Beamon scored seven straight points to push the Jasper lead up to 79-70 with 5:32 remaining.
The exclamation point came on a Jasper fast break. After Darryl Crawford grabbed a rebound off a missed three-pointer, he found Rico Pickett up-court. Pickett made a layup and was slammed to floor by Brett Harvey. Harvey was charged with a flagrant foul. Pickett made both free throws. The Jaspers could not convert, turning the ball over on the next possession. With this, Manhattan was up 11 points with 4:40 left.
With 1:36 left, Pickett went to the foul line and made two free throws. With these free throws, Pickett reached a new career-high.
Manhattan took its largest second half lead on a George Beamon free throw with 39 seconds left. A Garrett Kelly three-pointer cut the final score to 94-79.
Manhattan played the way it should have played all season. The Jaspers played up-tempo and looked to score. Manhattan shared the ball, racking up 16 assists. The Jaspers applied defensive pressure, forcing 17 turnovers and swiping 10 steals.
It is simple—when Manhattan plays aggressively and fast-paced, it plays well. The Jaspers have a team built for running, which can score in transition. The Jaspers need to play the same way tomorrow against Siena if they hope to have any chance at upsetting the top seed.
Free throws are also so important for Manhattan. The Jaspers have struggled all season to get to the line, let alone make the free throws. In this game, the Jaspers shot 38-of-46 from the charity stripe.
Pickett made 10-of-11 free throws, Beamon made 7-of-9, Crawford made 6-of-9, and Brandon Adams made 6-of-7. Andrew Gabriel shoots less than 50 percent from the line on the season. Gabriel made 3-of-4. Patrick Bouli and Antoine Pearson combined for 6-of-6 from the foul line. Manhattan will need to find ways to get to line against Siena, who fouls less than 14 times per game.
Loyola was able to stay in the game the same way it beat Manhattan in the regular season—the Greyhounds had many possessions with multiple chances. The Greyhounds had 13 offensive rebounds, many of them coming during the big comeback early in the second half. Manhattan continues to struggle on the boards.
Shane Walker led Loyola with 26 points and eight rebounds. Walker shot 9-of-11 from the field and 3-of-3 from beyond the arc.
Jamal Barney had 13 points, 11 in the first half. Brett Harvey was the third Greyhound in double digits with 10 points on poor 2-of-9 shooting.
Rico Pickett led all scorers with 33 points, a new career-high for the MAAC's leading scorer.
Darryl Crawford had his third double-double of the season against the Greyhounds with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Crawford, a senior, is now 24 points of Larry Lembo for seventh place on the Jaspers' all-time scoring list.
Brandon Adams had 14 points and George Beamon had 13 points off the bench.
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