Steve Masiello picked up his first win as a head coach on Saturday as the Manhattan Jaspers defeated the NJIT Highlanders.
The Jaspers jumped out to a 16-7 lead early in the game, forcing turnovers with their pressure defense. The offense then became stagnant and NJIT cut the lead to 28-27 at halftime.
In the second half, the Highlanders came out strong and took a 41-34 in the final 10 minutes. But then Roberto Colonette got the Jaspers going with a pair of free throws, sparking a 15-2 run.
After the Manhattan lead was cut back down to five points, the Jaspers scored the final nine points of the game and won 62-48.
NJIT's Isaiah Wilkerson led all scorers with 23 points on 10-for-14 shooting. Arjun Ohri was the only other Highlander in double figures with 11 points.
Junior George Beamon posted a double-double for Manhattan with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Colonette and freshman Donovan Kates backed up Beamon with 11 points and 10 points, respectively. Colonette grabbed eight rebounds while Kates made a pair of three-pointers during Manhattan's second half run.
Junior point guard Michael Alvarado scored six points and two assists off the bench, and freshman forward Emmy Andujar went for seven points and four rebounds.
Despite picking up a win, the Jaspers looked very sloppy.
Although the press defense forced some turnovers, Manhattan struggled to get into their halfcourt defense once NJIT got the ball up the floor. Many of Wilkerson's points came on 2-on-1 fastbreaks with four Jaspers still around the midcourt line.
Manhattan will not be able to afford giving up easy baskets so often against tougher competition.
Manhattan also had extreme struggles from beyond the arc, shooting 2-for-20. Kates was the only player to make a three-pointer, and he only shot 2-for-8 from three-point range.
The Jaspers can still win without making an abundance of three-point shots, but shooting 10 percent from beyond the arc will definitely hurt their offense.
On the positive side, the Jaspers did a good job getting to the foul line and making their free throws, shooting 24-for-31 (77.4 percent). Manhattan was consistently getting to the foul line and that is what got the Jaspers back into the game in the second half.
The one position where Manhattan looked weakest was at point guard. Senior captain Kidani Brutus started, but Mohamed Koita and Alvarado shared the spot with him throughout the game.
None of them commanded the floor particularly well, and none had more than two assists. If the Jaspers find a consistent point guard, their offense will flow more and they will get more open looks.
Manhattan will be back in action against No. 5 Syracuse as part of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Monday night.
Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and information.
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