Men’s Basketball 0-2 in first MAAC Games of Season

Men’s basketball lost two tight-knit games this past week after falling to the Rider University Broncs 89-83 on Thursday, Dec. 5 and the Manhattan College Jaspers 75-66 on Sunday, Dec. 8.

MU first played host to their in-state rival Rider in a high-scoring and exciting contest that marked MU’s debut in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. “It is great to be in the MAAC conference,” said head coach King Rice. “The intensity of that game and everything about it was great. Two teams fought as hard as they could and it was a great atmosphere to be in.”

The Hawks came out fast and built a 15-3 lead just three minutes into the game. After falling behind 2-0 in the beginning seconds junior guard Andrew Nicholas hit a three to put the Hawks on the board and help start a 15-1 run for the blue and white. Junior guard Deon Jones highlighted the run by scoring five points and dishing out two assists over the three minutes stretch.

Rider’s Zedric Sadler helped stop the momentum when he hit a three pointer from the wing with 15:54 remaining in the first half. The game then began to swing in the Broncs favor and three point shots from Anthony Myles, Tommy Pereira, and Shawn Valentine capped a 20-2 RU run to give them a 23-17 lead half way through the first period.

MU battled back and with four more points from Jones, along with a pretty coast-to-coast layup from freshman Justin Robinson, gave the Hawks back the lead 24-23 at the 8:35 mark. Neither team was able to get momentum completely back on their side after that and each traded baskets over a six-minute stretch with the Broncs gaining a one point advantage with two minutes left in the half.

RU was able to control the final two minutes, however, they scored eight straight points to increase their lead to 42-33 with only 25 seconds before the half. The Hawks then held the ball for the final shot and cut the lead to seven when Robinson made a reverse layup that just beat the buzzer to send both teams into halftime.

As the second half began, Rider managed to increased their lead to as much as 11 behind the sharp shooting of Myles and Jimmie Taylor.

Perhaps the biggest play of the night came during the stretch when, off an inbound play, Jones lobbed a pass to sophomore Tyron O’Garro who leapt through the air to grab it and ferociously threw it down over a Rider defender. The dunk helped spark the Hawks as it was part of an 20-7 run that also featured Robinson and Nicholas threes to even the score at 58. Another bucket by O’Garro gave the Hawks a 60-58 advantage with 8:30 remaining in the game. The lead was the Hawks first since they led 28-27 at the seven-minute mark in the first half.

Unfortunately for MU, the lead lasted less than 20 seconds as RU hit yet another three on their next possession. Fouls became a big part of the game from that point on. The Broncs, who were in the bonus at the 12 minute mark, scored their next 14 points from the free throw line.

The large amount of foul shots helped the Broncs build a five point lead with just over three minutes left despite three combined three pointers from Hawks’ junior Max DiLeo and freshman Josh James. With 1:13 left in the game RU had an 81-74 lead and the Hawks began to foul intentionally to extend the game.

The Broncs, however, continued to come up clutch from the stripe and eventually came out on top.

Myles was the game’s high scorer as he finished with 28 points while shooting 7-10 from the field and 10-13 from the free throw line. Jones led the Hawks with 24 points and also added seven rebounds, four steals, and 3 assists. Robinson also added 19 points on the night for the Hawks. The 19 points marked a new career high for the freshman as he hit his first five shots of the game and finished shooting 8-12 from the field.

“I felt like I got into a groove early,” explained Robinson after the game. “Coach kept telling me to attack and it really helped get my confidence up.”

Although he was disappointed with the loss, Rice was happy with his team’s performance in such a high profile game. “I take my hat off to Rider, my kids, and the fans,” explained Rice. “I thought every part of that game was top notch, and it was just a lot of fun. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get over the top.”

The men were unable to bounce back from the loss when they traveled to play MAAC preseason favorite Manhattan on Sunday afternoon. In another back and forth battle, the Jaspers prevailed as they outlasted the Hawks to claim a nine-point victory. Jones, DiLeo, Nicholas, and O’Garro all scored double-digits for MU with Jones and DiLeo netting 14 points while Nicholas chipped in with 12 and O’Garro added 10.

The 14 points were a career high for DiLeo and Jones and O’Garro each had double doubles with 10 and 11 rebounds respectively.

“This was a tough one today,” Rice said after the loss. “You have to give Manhattan credit for continuing to fight when we had them down.”

A three point play from Rich Williams helped Manhattan jump out to an early lead and a three point shot from Emmy Andujar pushed the lead to 17-6 with just over seven minutes gone in the first half. DiLeo and Nicholas helped bring the Hawks back as they scored 14 of MU’s next 19 points to put the team ahead 25-23 with 6:32 left in the first half. The Hawks were then able to extend their lead with four O’Garro points and a Robinson three. A DiLeo three ball and pair of Jasper free throws in the final ten seconds sent the teams into the locker room with MU holding a 39-33 advantage.

Manhattan again started fast with a 9-2 streak to retake the lead 42-41. The blue and white came right back with five quick points including another three from Nicholas to go back ahead 46-42. This would be the last time the Hawks led as the Jaspers then seized control of the game.

Over the next 12 minutes, Manhattan went on another run and gained a comfortable 70-54 edge with three and a half minutes left in the contest. A layup from Jones at the two-minute mark cut the lead down to nine, but MU would not come any closer as the Jaspers hit enough foul shots to hang on and preserve the win.

In both games, the Hawks played extremely well at points, but they’re youth and inexperience prevailed down they stretch as they took on two veteran teams.

“I’m really proud of these kids because they’re continuing to get better. We just have to have to stick together so we can get over the hump,” explained Rice. “It hurts and our guys are sad, but we’re growing up. Pretty soon we’re going to be the older team.”

MU will next take the floor on Tuesday, Dec. 10 when they go on the road to face the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers. Tip-off is 7 pm.