This game deserves more than three thoughts. Iona and Manhattan battled for 40 minutes doing what each of them do best. In the end though A.J. English just did it a little bit better.
English’s three was Iona’s eleventh of the night and ultimately the difference as the Gaels hung on for a 70-67 victory.
Iona survived thanks to a hot shooting night despite committing 10 more turnovers and taking 17 fewer shots. The Gaels managed to somehow squeeze 1.03 points per possession out of their offense and that was just barely enough.
“We just shot it horribly and they shot it really well,” Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello said afterwards.
Schadrac Casimir might be a freshman, but he isn’t afraid of the game or the moment. Casimir tied English with a game-high 22 points and it seemed like everyone on of those baskets came at a big moment. Just as the Jaspers would edge closer there would be Iona’s freshman sharpshooter to knock down another three. Casimir finished 4-6 from three and 7-11 from the field overall. And as you can see to the left, he wasn’t afraid to drive into the paint either, making some absolutely ridiculous baskets in traffic.
“We were wondering how he would do tonight in all fairness,” Cluess said about his freshman star. “He had played really well early, had a stretch where he struggled, has come back lately. We’re like, ‘Okay, let’s see how he reacts to this environment. Is he going to be himself?’ I think now it’s about did he miss shots, make shots, it’s not about the environment.”
Casimir though didn’t even really think about the moment when it came.
“Honestly, it was an exciting crowd, it lived up to hype, but it didn’t impact me because in practice we run so much I don’t even have time to look at the crowd. I’m just trying to sprint in my lane,” Casimir said.
Maybe the most impressive part of Casimir’s night is that he didn’t commit a single turnover in 39 minutes on the court. Under constant pressure from Manhattan he maintained his poise, moved the ball and was decisive when opportunities presented themselves. It’s a calm that separates Casimir from many freshmen in that situation.
But boy did the Manhattan pressure bother some of his teammates. Unlike Iona, who relies on its excellent shooting to win games, Masiello’s Jaspers still want to grind out ugly, defensive games – they’re just at a faster pace this season. The Jaspers relentlessly trap in their 2-3 zone, especially in the corners. (Even Ryden Hines got trapped as you can see in the GIF.)
Iona was dealt a blow with 8:48 remaining in the first half when Kelvin Amayo took a knee to the face. Amayo’s absence forced more of the ball-handling duties onto David Laury and he has seven turnovers in 32 minutes. English also had seven giveaways and Amayo, who returned in the second half, had six as well. Manhattan’s ability to fluster Iona’s main ball handlers kept the Jaspers in the game. A lot of the turnovers though were of the “dead ball” variety. Manhattan only had nine steals.
That’s important because Manhattan’s half court offense struggled to find easy shots against a lockdown Iona defense. Ashton Pankey, 16 points on 6-8 shooting, and Emmy Andujar, 17 points on 16 shots, played well in the post and took advantage of switching mismatches, but besides a brief flurry late in the second half Shane Richards drew constant attention and finished with 12 points on 13 shots and no other Jasper guard could pick up the slack. Manhattan shot just 5-20 from three in the game.
“Every move [Cluess] made tonight was the right move,” Masiello said.
This was a great game for the MAAC. When a conference puts together a television package this is what it envisions. A hard fought nationally televised game between two local rivals that comes down to the final possession. The fact that the possession happened after midnight doesn’t even matter. These two teams will be right back at it in two weeks in New Rochelle and could meet a third time in Albany and no one would complain. (Except maybe fans of other MAAC teams.)
A sold out crowd of 2,520 rocked Draddy despite the late tip and some of the leagues best players made great plays in big spots. Quite honestly that’s about all you can ask for on a Friday night.