In coach-speak, they’re called BLOBs and SLOBs for baseline out of bounds plays and sideline out of bounds plays, respectively, and most coaches agree that they don’t spend enough time practicing them, while players are nearly unanimous that they work on them too much because if they wanted to run through plays over and over, they just would have played football.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Manhattan coaching staff won this argument. At least until Wednesday’s practice.
Most of the publicity will go to the Rich Williams dunk that tied the game against UMass with 0.2 seconds left and rightfully so. I mean, first of all, it’s a spectacular dunk, c’mon, you’ve watched it how many times already? But also, the fact that the Jaspers had to inbound the ball with only 0.8 seconds left and the fact that Manhattan appeared doomed when Tyler Wilson failed to connect with the rim on his second free throw trailing 61-59 with only 2.1 seconds left.
But UMass committed really an unforced error, and Manhattan had a chance to pull off the improbable dunk. It should be noted that neither team had a time out, but there was a slight delay as the officials looked at video to see exactly how much time was left (resetting from 0.6 to 0.8).
It wasn’t a really complicated play, in the end, UMass figured – for the second time in a minute – that with so little time left, sharpshooter Shane Richards would be the intended target for inbounder Emmy Andujar. They wouldn’t be duped by Richards setting a screen for Williams, screen the screener plays are a dime a dozen these days. But that meant when Jabarie Hinds got caught on Richards’ screen, Richards’ man – Derrick Gordon – didn’t help, and no one else in a black jersey turned to see Williams flying through the lane until it was too later. Andujar never even looked at Richards, it was Williams or bust with 0.8 seconds left, and the play certainly didn’t bust.
And if you didn’t think coaches have long memories? Most of the players on the floor were in middle school in 2008.
“As coaches, we just stay up all hours of the night and …. actually I drew that up on the spot,” Manhattan coach Steve Masiello said. “It was a hybrid of, believe it or not, Villanova ran that against us when I was at Louisville in 2008 and I made one variation to it. They almost beat us with Dante Cunningham coming off a back screen for a lob and I just tweaked it a little bit. I’d like to take the credit, but I’m not that good.”
What will go little noted and not long remembered (except here), is an equally successful BLOB that the Jaspers ran with 1:15 left. With the shot clock at 3 and Manhattan trailing 57-55, again the key for UMass was to keep Richards from getting an open look for a jump shot. This time (with Andujar again inbounding), Tyler Wilson ran away from the left corner, appearing to clear space for Richards to run there.
And Richards did sprint that way, with Gordon breathing down his neck almost literally. But it was a trap. Richards turned and when he did, Ashton Pankey was there to allow Richards to circle him, screening Gordon in the process. Pankey’s man, Cady Lalanne, was slow to react, perhaps shocked at seeing Richards so close to the basket. Andujar’s bounce pass found Richards wide open and he not only scored but was fouled by Seth Berger, who was guarding the inbounder to start the play.
“I actually took that one from Robert Morris when they played Kentucky in the NIT,” Masiello said. “I just go around and I watch basketball all day and I steal everyone’s good plays. It’s what I do. I’ll go back and steal some more after this. Give the kids credit, though, too, they executed them well.”
Of course, in the end, despite plenty of positives, Tuesday’s game ended in a 77-68 overtime loss to favored UMass which puts the Jaspers at 0-2 heading into this weekend’s Hall of Fame Tip-off Classic at Mohegan Sun. Manhattan was outrebounded 45-29 and had no answer for Lalanne in the paint (23 pts, 16 rebs), as Pankey – although he came up with a couple of huge plays down the stretch – struggled for much of the game (7 pts, 5 turnovers).
Manhattan had plenty of excuses, most notably the absence of Cincinnati transfer Jermaine Lawrence, who sat with an injured toe. The Jaspers were also without freshman Zane Waterman, who would have given them some more size as well. Those two absences put plenty of pressure on Pankey and made Andujar spend much of his time near the hoop in Manhattan’s zone, which was very effective in frustrating UMass’ high-powered offense for much of the game. Most of the Minutemen’s hoops came either in transition or on putbacks. The largely veteran UMass squad also shot 27-of-29 from the free throw line to seal the game.
Still, Masiello wasn’t buying the excuses completely.
“We constantly how the handle adversity is very important,” Masiello said. “That’s what I was really proud of today. The problem was, though, when we rallied and came back, I think we got full and we lost our appetite and urgency a little bit. That happens with young people, when they get a little success, they get complacent and I think you saw that a little bit today from our basketball club. The ironic thing is we had two seniors on the court (Andujar and Donovan Kates – who was 3-for-3 from behind the arc in the game). They have to understand Mike (Alvarado), George (Beamon), and Rhamel (Brown) aren’t here to pick our urgency level up, they have to do that for the team now. When they do that, and they will do that, the team will understand how to finish the last five minutes of games.”
Manhattan will take on Binghamton Saturday and either Northeastern or Navy on Sunday at Mohegan Sun.