Big games continue to bring out the best in Manhattan’s Emmy Andujar, especially against rival Iona.
Andujar scored 16 of his career-high 28 points in the first half, had a key block at the end of regulation and converted a big hoop late to lead Manhattan to an 80-77 overtime win against Iona last Friday in front of a sold out crowd at Draddy Gymnasium. He admitted to reveling in taking on the Gales, against whom he is averaging 14 points for his career.
“It’s a great rivalry,” he said.
Jaspers coach Steve Masiello believes Andjuar, who also had six rebounds, is a dangerous when he is aggressive. He attacked the hoop with ease and precision against the Gales to no surprise to his coach. Masiello has watched the junior flourish in big games since recruiting him in high school at Rice.
“He lives for big moments,” the coach said. “Certain kids are built for it. Certain kids they struggle with it. He’s one of those kids that loves the big stage, loves the big moment and he showed that tonight.”
Manhattan, the preseason favorite to win the MAAC, feels the victory over the defending champions and regular season leader, sends a message to the rest of the teams heading into the conference tournament. Manhattan (21-7, 14-5) avenged an 85-73 loss to the Gaels (19-9, 16-3) in New Rochelle on Jan. 31 and ended Iona’s 11-game winning streak, even with starting point guard Mike Alvarado missing the majority of the game with a left ankle injury. The Jaspers earned the second seed in the MAAC tournament by beat Canisus last Sunday.
“It’s just letting people know that we are still the team to beat,” Andujar said topping Iona.
The Jaspers dominated early in the overtime, using a 7-0 run to take a 78-73 lead on a RaShawn Stores layup with 1:47 to go. An Andujar layup put Manhattan up five with 21 seconds left. Beamon missed the front end of a 1-and-1, leaving Iona one last chance. Donovan Kates defended an A. J. English 3-pointer well and the shot was off the mark. Manhattan forward Rhamel Brown missed two free throws down the other end, but got his on rebound to seal the win.
Iona star Sean Armond almost kept the game from needed overtime. He hit two 3-pointers late in regulation to put Iona up 71-69 with 57 second left. George Beamon, who ha 13 points and 11 rebounds scored the last six Manhattan points in regulation, including a floater with 33 seconds left to tie the score at 71-71.
Iona did not call time out. Andujar got beat off the dribble by Tre Bowman (23 points), but blocked his shot with five seconds left. Andujar grabbed the rebound and raced down court. His layup in traffic fell short sending the game into overtime.
“In my head I was like, ‘He’s not getting this game winner on me,’” Andujar said.
Brown added nine points and nine rebounds for Manhattan. Tyler Wilson and RaShawn Stores provided quality mines in Alvarado’s absence. Isaiah Williams had 15 points for Iona and Davis Laury added 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Masiello jokes that he doesn’t want to play Iona or any of the league’s other top teams again, even if it is the MAAC championship game, because of how good the top of the conference is. The placement in the standings and the local players familiarly each other have made the Manhattan-Iona rival even more special.
“It’s such a good rivalry,” Masiello said. “Whether it’s [from] your teammates or with your opponents you are going to hear about it”