More disappointment came to Draddy Gymnasium on Friday night. As Manhattan brought in its third highest attendance of the season, the Jaspers (4-21, 2-12 MAAC) took on first place Fairfield (19-5, 12-2 MAAC) for the second time this season.
The two teams first met in late January. In that meeting, the Stags held off an upset bid from Manhattan, using a run in the final minute to pick up a 61-59 victory. In sum, the rematch was similar.
The game stayed close through most of the first half, but a 16-5 run from Fairfield opened up a lead for the Stags. The Stags would take a 36-27 lead into halftime.
An energetic spurt from Manhattan early in the second half brought the Jaspers to what would be their first and only lead of the game. George Beamon's layup with 11:30 left to play put the Jaspers up 45-44. Fairfield countered with a short run of its own to push the lead back up to seven points.
One more run by Manhattan in the final few minutes brought the Jaspers within three points. Three straight jump shots, two from Kidani Brutus and one from Demetrius Jemison, cut the lead to 59-56. However, Manhattan failed to score in the final 1:45, while Fairfield made six of seven free throws in that time span.
Despite a solid effort from Manhattan, the Jaspers dropped another a score of 65-56.
As usual, there were a couple of bright spots in the Jaspers' play.
If Fairfield does not win the MAAC Tournament, does it deserve an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament?
Although it took a while for Beamon to get going in the scoring problem, the sophomore dished out a career-high seven assists. Beamon had never had more than three assists in a game before Friday. He has tended to be a little selfish with his play in the past. More outings like tonight could help the Jaspers on offense.
As usual, freshman forward Rhamel Brown had a very strong outing. Brown, who holds the potential to become one of the nation's best shot blockers, had three blocks and played strong defense. The true freshman scored eight points on 3-for-3 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds.
On the downside, foul trouble and turnovers killed Manhattan. The Jaspers had 12 turnovers as a team, and three players who each had three. Consistently, the Jaspers managed to turn the ball over when they desperately needed a basket.
For Manhattan, both Kidani Brutus and Brown were in foul trouble. Brutus sat through most of the first half with two early fouls and eventually fouled out in the final minute. Brown had to be extra careful on defense at some points due to his foul trouble.
For Fairfield, Derek Needham led the Stags with 23 points. Needham made 4-of-7 three-pointers and shot 9-for-11 from the foul line.
The Jaspers will play their next game against Siena (10-14, 7-7 MAAC) on Sunday.