The Jaspers took a big step down on Saturday against the Long Island Blackbirds after playing a very strong game against Penn on Wednesday.
Manhattan (2-1) was crushed on the boards, losing the battle 45-39. Long Island (3-0) managed to get 24 offensive rebounds and convert for 19 second-chance points.
After an even start to the game, the Blackbirds pulled away to a 40-33 halftime lead in the final four minutes of the first half. After an early second-half run by Manhattan cut the lead back to three points, Long Island pulled away to a 54-43 lead with 13:10 remaining. The Blackbirds would extend the lead to 16 points with barely over six minutes left to play.
Hot shooting from the Jaspers down the stretch cut the lead all the way down to seven points, but the Jaspers' defense could not make the big stops on defense to complete the comeback. The Jaspers would go on to lose 91-80.
The Jaspers showed off their ability to score the basketball, but they were awful on defense. The Jaspers continually let the Blackbirds run up the floor for easy layups. Time after time, a Long Island guard would beat all five Jaspers down the floor and go in for an uncontested shot.
And even when Manhattan forced the Blackbirds to play in a half court offense, the Jaspers' zone was terrible. Instead of forcing jump shots from the outside like a zone is supposed to do, holes in the Manhattan zone allowed players to get inside for high percentage shots.
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And when Manhattan was able to keep Long Island from getting inside, the Blackbirds found wide open looks from beyond the arc and were generally able to convert.
Manhattan also showed the disadvantages to being under-manned in Saturday's game. The Jaspers, who are missing five players from their roster, had multiple players in foul trouble. In the first two games of the season, the Jaspers had done a good job of staying out of foul trouble. On Saturday, five Manhattan players had four or more fouls. Until the Jaspers get the rest of their team back, they cannot afford to have players getting into foul trouble or fouling out.
As bad as the defense was, the Jaspers showed some sparks on offense.
Michael Alvarado led the Jaspers in scoring for the second time this season. Alvarado scored 18 points and dished out four assists. Alvarado was not as crisp as he had been in the first two games as he turned the ball over three times. The freshman made a few bad decisions, but overall had another good game.
Kidani Brutus continues to improve, scoring a career-high 17 points. Brutus made five three-pointers. Brutus was one of the few Manhattan players that was not in foul trouble. Brutus was able to make a couple of contested three-pointers. If Barry Rohrssen can design some plays to get Brutus open, he can be a deadly and productive shooter from downtown.
After following a strong performance against NJIT with an atrocious performance against Penn, Andrew Gabriel rebounded from a one-for-13 shooting night on Wednesday to score 12 points on six-for-10 shooting. Gabriel showed off a couple of nice moves in the post and an improved jump shot. However, Gabriel killed the Jaspers with eight turnovers, including a traveling violation late in the game which hurt Manhattan's chances of a comeback.
Junior college transfer Robert Martina had his best game as a Jasper with nine points and five rebounds. Martina shot two-for-four from the field and made all five of his free throws. Martina continues to show that he has talent, but he also continues to look lost and confused on the floor.
Rhamel Brown recorded the first double-double of his collegiate career with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Brown had a couple of electrifying dunks, but the freshman fouled out for the second time in three games.
For Long Island, Kenny Onyechi had a double-double off the bench with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Onyechi shot 8-for-10 from the foul line. Julian Boyd, Kyle Johnson, David Hicks, and Michael Culpo all scored in double digits for Long Island with 17 points, 14 points, 12 points, and 11 points, respectively.
The Blackbirds rebounded from poor shooting in the first half and shot 16-for-31 (51.6 percent) in the second half. The Blackbirds made 28 of their 40 free throws for a solid 70 percent.
With this win, the Blackbirds are one of two remaining undefeated teams in the Northeast Conference (Central Connecticut State). The Blackbirds will return to the Bronx on Tuesday when they play at Fordham.
Manhattan now has to prepare for the Old Spice Classic, where the Jaspers have a first round, Thanksgiving date with the Wisconsin Badgers.
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