The Manhattan College Jaspers defeated the MEAC favorite Morgan State Bears at Draddy Gymnasium on Wednesday night.
Devon Austin scored the first five points of the game for the Jaspers, but Morgan State followed with a 13-0 run.
Manhattan came back and the two opponents went on small runs to finish the half with Morgan State on top, 30-26.
The Jaspers started the half on a 9-2 run but allowed the Bears to take a 51-45 lead with near eight minutes remaining after Reggie Holmes knocked down two three-pointers from the left corner.
After Holmes' second three, Jaspers fans threw their hands in the air in unison, worrying that this was the beginning of Manhattan's downfall. However, the crowd refused to give up on the game, began to get loud, and helped Manhattan on their 13-0 run to take a 58-51 lead with just under three minutes left.
On the run, junior guard Darryl Crawford hit a three-pointer, a pair of free throws, and a layup, and sophomore guard Chris Smith anticipated a few passes on defense and converted the turnovers into points on the other end.
After a Morgan State timeout, the Manhattan defense went on hiatus, and the Bears jumped out to a 60-58 lead with under a minute remaining. Manhattan's worst foul shooter, Andrew Gabriel, was fouled with 20 seconds left, and hit one out of two attempts.
The Jaspers fouled Holmes, who missed the front end of a one-and-one. Austin rebounded, gave an outlet pass to Crawford, who rushed the ball up court and found a cutting Antoine Pearson. With 5.7 seconds left, Pearson spun a reverse up and under layup off the glass to give Manhattan a 61-60 lead.
Pearson has been clutch for Manhattan in tight games. Two other notable moments were his game-tying three in an upset win of Jared Jordan's Marist Red Foxes and a game-winning trey that beat Saint Peter's last season.
Holmes sped up the court and launched an NBA range three-pointer with about two seconds left on the game clock. Crawford got a piece of the ball, which hung in the air until the final buzzer sounded.
With the win, the Jaspers improve to 2-0 on the season. The win is not only impressive for Manhattan, but it is good for the MAAC because Morgan State was picked to best the MEAC.
Smith had 14 points, five rebounds, and four steals, but only shot 3-12 from the field.
Crawford scored 12 points and grabbed four rebounds, but also shot poorly at 4-12.
Both Crawford and Smith seemed a bit selfish, taking two-on-one breaks by themselves instead of dishing to an open teammate with a better chance of scoring.
Austin had 11 points, six rebounds, and two monstrous blocks. The senior from White Plains has been forcing threes and some layups lately. While it is good that he is looking to score, something Jaspers fans expect from him, he needs to be smart about his shot selection.
As a team, the Jaspers shot a mediocre 41.7 percent from the floor and only hit two of their 13 attempts from beyond the extended three-point line. Above-par foul shooting essentially won the game for the Jaspers, as they shot 19-26 from the charity stripe.
Coach Barry Rohrssen prefers a slow-paced passing offense around the perimeter. However, the Jaspers are definitely at their best when they run the floor. Other than Herve Banogle, every Jasper has the ability to run up and down well, and the guards perform best when they are able to run.
Manhattan conforms too much to the tendencies of their opponent. When they play a team like Morgan State with two big men, Marquise Kately and Kevin Thompson, who cannot run the floor, Manhattan opts to play a half-court game.
However, when Siena comes into Draddy, the Jaspers run—they beat the Saints 72-71 in an upbeat game.
It is surprising that Rohrssen has not noticed that his team produces more points in a running game.
On defense, the Jaspers' press was successful a few times and forced some turnovers. The referees missed a 10-second violation, which always gives a huge boost to a defense.
Manhattan spent most of the game in a man defense, and when they switched to a 2-3 midway through the second half, Morgan State hit multiple open treys.
In recent seasons, the Jaspers have been very weak defenders of the perimeter, so Rohrssen is better off in a man-to-man set.
Morgan State looked good, but their three best players got into early foul trouble. Thompson fouled out, Marquise Kately had four fouls, and Holmes had three early in the game.
Holmes and Thompson each had 12 points for the Bears. Jermaine Boulden dished out a game-high eight assists.
Manhattan travels to Fordham Saturday night for the 101st "Battle of the Bronx."
Fordham defeated Manhattan at Draddy last season, but the Rams are weaker this year. They lost by three to Columbia at home and by 39 at Villanova.