Zavier Turner was determined not to let Manhattan’s senior night end in disappointment. Honored before the game alongside fellow soon-to-be graduates Rich Williams, Calvin Crawford, and Zane Waterman, Turner stole the show Sunday night with a season-high 31 points along with eight assists to lead the Jaspers past Quinnipiac 92-86 in double overtime.
“They weren’t going to go out with an easy win, it was going to have to be a representation of their careers,” Manhattan coach Steve Masiello said of his seniors. “I just thought their will to win and their character and their toughness was just something really special tonight that I’m going to miss a whole lot in this building.”
Turner was held scoreless on four attempts before intermission and didn’t pick up his first points until the 12:40 mark of the second half, but finished as the game’s leading scorer.
The senior point guard accounted for the Jaspers’ final four points of regulation including a layup to tie things up at 65 with just four seconds remaining. Turner then exploded for 15 points in the overtime periods including Manhattan’s first seven points of the second overtime.
“I was thinking about every one of these guys right here and I felt like I was letting them down in the first half,” Turner said of his turnaround, surrounded by his fellow seniors. “I put my thoughts together and said you know what, I better just put everything on the line right here. I texted Rich [Williams] before the game and I told him let’s lay it on the line right now for this last home game.”
“I thought about everybody in this room sitting right here. We put in a lot of work in this gym, and I was thinking about every one of these guys right here and I felt like I was letting them down in the first half. I put my thoughts together and said you know what I better just put everything on the line right here. This is my last time playing in this gym, it’s my last time having a home game here. I texted Rich before the game and I told him, let’s lay it on the line right now for this last home game, and that’s what happened.”
Turner took the spotlight in Manhattan’s victory, but the team would not have made it home without the heroics of Williams. The fifth-year wing logged 23 points, highlighted by a corner three in the waning moments of the first overtime to pull the Jaspers even at 76 with just seven seconds on the clock.
“Fortunately throughout the season, we’ve been put in those types of situations, down one or down two and we had to draw up something,” Williams said. “Sometimes it fell, sometimes it worked out, so it was just about being in that position before and just keeping our poise as an organization.”
Williams matched a career high with 11 rebounds for his fifth career double-double and is hitting the postseason in peak form. The Brooklyn native has now scored double figures in his last eight games and is averaging 21.8 ppg over his last four.
Waterman and sophomore forward Pauly Paulicap joined Turner and Williams in double figures with 14 and 10 respectively.
The Jaspers’ victory means they will enter the conference tournament as the #5 seed and receive a bye to the quarterfinal round where they will square off against local rival Iona on Saturday night at 9:30.
The Gaels swept Manhattan this season including an 88-75 decision this past Friday and have taken the last six meetings, but it was the Jaspers who came out on top the last two times the rivals met in the conference tournament. The last such meeting was in the 2015 title game, a year after Manhattan took down the Gaels to claim the 2014 championship.
“They’re the defending champions, they’re the back-to-back champions, and they’re the champions until someone dethrones them,” Masiello said of Iona.
Quinnipiac was led by senior Cameron Young, who flirted with a triple-double on 22 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. Like Turner, Young was held scoreless through the first twenty minutes, but kicked off the second half with a three-pointer and accounted for 13 of the Bobcats’ first 15 points in the second stanza.
“He just kind of stayed aggressive and kept coming and didn’t get his head down,” Quinnipiac coach Baker Dunleavy said of Young. “The thing he does consistently is he rebounds for us, and he had some foul trouble but he just kept his head clear and focused. Sometimes he scores that many points and you don’t even know he does it because he does it in so many different ways.”
Freshman Rich Kelly capped the night with 20 points and six assists, and went without a turnover for just the third time this season while fellow rookie Jacob Rigoni put through 18 points with a personal-best nine rebounds. Chaise Daniels added 15 points on 6-8 shooting.
With the loss, Quinnipiac falls to the #7 seed and will face host team Siena on Thursday night at 7:00. The Bobcats took the first meeting 71-70 at the Times Union Center on New Year’s Day and completed the season sweep with a 76-69 victory on Jan. 21 in Hamden.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.