Manhattan grabbed the lead with a quick run just before the first media timeout Sunday night against Northeastern, and as the Jaspers do – especially when they’re rolling – there was huffing and puffing and yelling and screaming, enough for the Mohegan Sun security guard positioned behind the bench to quip, “Man, those guys are loud.”
Not for long, though.
In a fascinating clash of styles, it was slow and steady – with an emphasis on the steady – that won the race, and did so comfortably as surprising Northeastern moved to 4-0 on the young season by handling Manhattan 65-51 in the final of the Springfield bracket of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic.
“I thought the first half was the best half of basketball we played all season,” Northeastern coach Bill Coen said. “We really shared the ball, attacked the backboards, took care of the basketball outside of the first couple of minutes. We handled their pressure the way we wanted to and got quality shots.”
Slow may be a disservice to the Huskies, who got a good number of their points in a 25-6 first-half run that allowed them to take control of the contest on run-outs, with Northeastern post players Scott Eatherton and less heralded Zach Stahl beating their Manhattan counterparts down the floor for layups and dunks, using the Jaspers’ aggressiveness against them (Stahl had 14 of his 16 points in the game’s first 13 minutes).
In the half-court, Northeastern’s patience and ball movement flustered the trademark aggressive Manhattan zone with high-low movement and always sucking two players in before making the extra pass to an open shooter. The Huskies continued their hot outside shooting to the season – going 5-for-9 – but as I discussed yesterday that has plenty to do with how open those shooters are because of ball movement.
By halftime, Northeastern led 44-24, and the lead got as big as 23 early in the second half before the Huskies got a bit too cautious for their coach’s liking as the game wound down. Manhattan’s pressure forced 14 turnovers in the second half (and 23 for the game, which led to a fairly misleadingly high .338 turnover rate, which was Northeastern’s second highest in eight years, only a CAA game against VCU in 2012 being higher), and the Jaspers had the lead down to 14 on a couple of occasions, but Manhattan could not get any closer.
“We took our foot off the gas a little bit,” Coen said. “Guys had shots, and in the first half we stepped in aggressively and just took them. In the second half, we passed up a lot of shots, and sometimes when you pass up a good shot, that one doesn’t show up again.”
Also troubling for Manhattan was its lack of success in the halfcourt. Tyler Wilson had a solid game (although he was 1-of-5 from the free throw line), scoring 11 points and being able to get to the basket and finish, at least occasionally. He was really the only Jasper able to do so, including Emmy Andujar, who struggled in both games at the Mohegan Sun after he was brilliant Tuesday against UMass. Andujar finished with seven points, five turnovers, and just one rebound before fouling out. Northeastern dominated the glass to the tune of a 35-19 rebounding advantage and also held Shane Richards to just seven points on 1-of-4 shooting from behind the arc.
“You have to credit David Walker,” Coen said. “He really gave him zero air space and stayed down on his pumpfakes and kept him in check. He’s a tough cover because he’s got a great motor and they run him off a ton of screens, but David Walker did an outstanding job.”
As you might imagine, Steve Masiello was far from pleased with the Jaspers’ performance, especially from his veterans.
“They made shots and we didn’t guard. We allowed them easy ball movement and didn’t get enough deflections. We just come out flat,” Manhattan coach Steve Masiello said. “I don’t take one bright spot from a 20-point loss. Not one.”
Manhattan, whose game is predicated on confidence, has six days off before meeting another team likely looking for a boost Saturday in George Mason, which went 0-3 in Charleston this weekend. It is the last contest for the Jaspers (1-3) before opening MAAC play next week.
Meanwhile, Northeastern (who was led by Eatherton, who scored 22 points on just eight field goal attempts and added eight rebounds) is starting to get some attention with its first 4-0 start since 2005-06, its first season in the Colonial, and last season under former coach Ron Everhart, who left following that campaign to take over at Duqense, allowing Coen to move over after being a long-time assistant at Boston College.
The Huskies, who haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1991, still have a few big non-conference tests upcoming, including road games at UMass and Harvard in the next 10 days, and games at St. Mary’s and Richmond on either side of Christmas. Still, it appears that, with apologies to William & Mary and Hofstra, that Northeastern might be the team to beat in the CAA, trying to end that 24-year NCAA drought. As Coen knows, it’s very early, though.
“I’m not sure about trends this early in the season,” Coen said. “But I’m pleased with where we are. I’m pleased how we’re growing and learning and getting better. We have a tough trip to Amherst coming up and that will be a similar game to this one.”