|Jaspers Come up Short on Senior Day|
RIVERDALE, N.Y. - The Manhattan men's basketball team dropped a heartbreaker on Senior Day falling 62-60 to Loyola (21-8, 13-5 MAAC). Jaspers' junior guard George Beamon scored a game-high 24 points and senior guard Kidani Brutus added 14 points and a game-high four assists in Manhattan's (20-11, 12-6 MAAC) first setback at Draddy Gymnasium in two weeks.
The Jaspers will enter the 2012 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championships as the # 3 seed after being selected to finish eighth in the MAAC Preseason Coaches' Poll. Manhattan has enjoyed the best turnaround in NCAA Division I under the direction of first year head coach Steve Masiello with a 14-win improvement from last season. It also marks the Jaspers best campaign since 2005-06, which was the last time the program hit the 20-win plateau.
Manhattan will square off with the sixth seed Siena (13-16, 8-10) on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass. It marks the fifth time in the last six years that the Jaspers and Saints meet in the MAAC Tournament.
The Jaspers let an 11 point lead with 11 minutes remaining slip away as Loyola used key plays by sophomore guard Justin Drummond and junior forward Erik Etherly to squeeze out the victory. The Greyhounds locked down defensively holding the Jaspers scoreless after Beamon put Manhattan up 60-58 with a three-point play at the 2:16 mark. Drummond made a key steal in the back court that led to his two handed dunk to tie the game at 60, and then Etherly cleaned up his own rebound for the put back in what proved to be the game winning basket with 1:01 remaining.
Manhattan was a fraction of a second away from sending the game to overtime. On the final possession Brutus' three-point heave fell short into the hands of Beamon whose mid-air put back was waived off after the officiating crew confirmed at the instant replay monitor that it came after time expired.
Beamon and Brutus combined for 28 of the Jaspers' first half points as Manhattan carried a 37-31 advantage into the break. The Jaspers shot 45.5% from beyond the arc and knocked down 12-of-13 (92.3%) free-throws in the first half. Brutus had three of his four three-pointers in the opening 20 minutes and Beamon posted 17 points in the stanza.
The Jaspers had been nearly invincible when leading at intermission during the regular-season, entered the game winning 16-of-17 times when carrying an edge into the second half. It looked like Manhattan was going to do it again as the Jaspers outscored Loyola 13-8 in first nine minutes of the period to take a double-digit advantage. Manhattan was capitalizing on both ends of the court. Rhamel Brown made a big block and then dove on the floor for the rebound, which sparked a fast break that ended with Brutus burying a three from the corner to put the Jaspers ahead 50-39.
Loyola responded with a 10-2 run over the next four minutes to claw back into the contest. Etherly scored four points during the spurt and senior forward Shane Walker made it a three point game (52-49) with a put back dunk with 7:52 to go. Etherly finished with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Mohamed Koita answered for the Jaspers with a three-pointer making it a two possession ball game and Brown gave Manhattan a 57-51 lead with a bucket at the 6:29 mark. But the Greyhounds scored the next six points to lock the contest at 57-57 on Anthony Winbush's break away lay up and Loyola outscored Manhattan 11-3 to close out the game.
Loyola was led by Drummond's 13 points, while Winbush added 12 points and eight rebounds. Manhattan was outrebounded by the Greyhounds 40-20. Despite holding Loyola without a three-point field goal (0-for-8), the Greyhounds shot 46.5% (20-43) from the field and knocked down 22-of-30 free-throws.
Beamon anchored the Jaspers superb free-throw shooting effort by going a perfect 10-for-10 from the line. Manhattan shot 83.3% (15-18) from the charity stripe. It was the 45th straight contest Beamon posted double-figures in scoring as he had his third straight 20+ point performance. The 6'4" junior from Roslyn, N.Y. completed the regular-season as the MAAC's scoring leader averaging 18.4 points per game.
Manhattan travels to Springfield, Mass. next weekend looking to make a run for the program's fourth MAAC title. The Jaspers will step on the neutral floor at the MassMutual Center with 11 wins away from home this season, which ranked tied for the 8th most in nation entering last week. The Jaspers journey begins with Siena on Saturday night.