A tight loss to conference leader and rival Iona was just a hiccup in Manhattan’s late season surge.
The Jaspers have won seven games in their last nine tries including a decisive 67-54 win over host Marist in MAAC conference men’s basketball Sunday night. The Jaspers, who sit in third, guaranteed themselves at least a fourth seed in the upcoming conference tournament with the win.
Manhattan was led by one of the best performances of the season by sophomore forward Jermaine Lawrence. The Cincinnati transfer poured in a career-high 19 points to keep his team’s strong play going.
“I let the game come to me,” Lawrence said. “I didn’t want to force anything, just move without the ball and picked my spots.”
Jaspers coach Steve Masiello said he’s seen Lawrence mature, grow up and become a player who is more responsible for his actions. The excuses have stopped and the results are starting to improve.
“Now I think he has totally bought in,” Masiello said. “He knows the system. He understands the philosophy. He knows I am going to expect things that are unrealistic from him and I am going to hold him to that.”
Things didn’t look good to start the second stanza as the Jaspers trailed by nine early. The deficit did not last long. Manhattan outscored Marist 40-18 the rest of the way. The Red Foxes shot just 25 percent from the field in the second half. . Manhattan shot 65 percent from the field after the break and pulled away from the Red Foxes.
“I thought we gutted it out and made some big plays,” Masiello said. “It was a great total team victory tonight.”
Emmy Andujar turned in another fine performance with 13 points, eight rebounds and five assist for Manhattan. Ashton Pankey chipped in 10 points and six boards and RaShawn Stores added 10 points and four assists. Senior sharpshooter Shane Richards, who as hampered by a knee injury, played sparingly. Chavaughn Lewis paced Marist (5-23, 4-14) with 16 points.
The victory puts Manhattan on a crash course with Iona, the conference regular season champion. The two rivals meet for the second time on Friday night in New Rochelle with the Jaspers still looking secure third place in the MAAC standings. Beating the Gaels on the road would give the Jaspers their first win over one of the conference’s top to teams this season.