Clock Strikes Midnight on Jaspers Magical Season
SPRINGFIELD, MASS. - The magical 2011-2012 campaign for the Manhattan men's basketball team came to a premature end early Sunday morning as the Jaspers fell 84-82 in overtime to Siena (14-16) in the MAAC Tournament Quarterfinals at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass. In a season that featured the biggest turnaround in NCAA Division I with a 14-win improvement from a year ago, and only the 11th 20-win season in the program's 106-year history and the first since 2005-06, Manhattan's (20-12) season came down to senior guard Kidani Brutus' potential game-winning shot that revolved around the rim twice before falling off the mark at the end of regulation.
The Saints, who went only six players deep, got a big bucket and free-throw in overtime from Owen Wignot to give Siena a two point advantage with 19 seconds remaining. Manhattan pounded the ball in to sophomore forward Rhamel Brown in the Jaspers' final possession who was bodied up by Saints' junior forward OD Anosike. Anosike managed to get a piece of Brown's shot deflecting it out of bounds. On the Jaspers' final opportunity, freshman Emmy Andujar took the last look that would have sent the game into double overtime, but his contested lay up was off the mark allowing the Saints to hold on.
Andujar left it all on the court as he finished with his first career double-double and he was close to the Jaspers first ever triple-double. He posted 11 points, a game-high 15 rebounds and six assists in the setback. The MAAC's scoring leader George Beamon led five Jaspers in double-figures with a game-high 24 points, including five three-pointers.
Manhattan clawed back from an eight point second half deficit and led the Saints 78-75 with 18 seconds left in regulation after Brutus buried a big three-pointer and Andujar knocked down a pair of free-throws. Coming out of a timeout, Wignot answered with the biggest basket of the contest, it was his fourth three-pointer of the second half that tied the ballgame at 78-78 with eight seconds to go.
The Jaspers drew up a play with 5.8 seconds on the clock as Manhattan got the ball to Brutus whose midrange jumper made two rotations around the rim before falling off the mark to send the contest to overtime.
Siena's senior center Brandon Walters converted the first bucket in overtime to help swing momentum to the Saints side. Walters finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and five blocks over 40 minutes of work.
Andujar responded with a lay up to tie the ballgame at 80-80, before Wignot's jumper gave Siena a lead it would not give up. Anosike put Siena on top 83-80 with a free-throw, and then the Jaspers and Saints traded Beamon's runner in the lane for Wignot's free-throw to give Siena an 84-82 edge, which proved to be just enough.
Brown was a key part of the Jaspers comeback surge in the second half after Siena's 12-6 opening spurt expanded their two point halftime lead to 53-45 with 14:58 remaining, after back-to-back threes from Wignot. Manhattan let Brown go to work in the blocks as he scored eight of his 12 points and grabbed all seven rebounds in the second half. Jaspers' senior forward Roberto Colonette was effective inside adding 11 points and he had six of his seven rebounds on the offensive glass.
The Jaspers and Saints maintained a high paced tempo throughout the contest. The first half featured a three-point shooting clinic with each team converting 57.1% of its field goals beyond the arc. Beamon hit four three-pointers in a row and was 5-for-5 from three-point territory at the break.
Brutus knocked down two of his three treys in the second half as he finished with 13 points and four assists in 36 minutes off the bench. The Saints also rallied behind their senior in the second half as Wignot had 13 of his 22 points in the period, including his clutch bucket. Wignot shot 8-for-12 from the field in the contest and he was 4-for-5 from three-point range in the final 20 minutes.
Siena maintained a sweltering 49.2% (30-61) field goal shooting mark and the Saints converted 9-of-20 (45.0%) three-point attempts. The Jaspers hit 15-of-31 (48.4%) shots in the second half to finish with a 40.8% (29-71) field goal mark.
Manhattan's appealing resume features a 20-12 overall ledger and a 12-6 record in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Jaspers will wait to see what postseason invites are sent to Riverdale.