Three Thoughts: Manhattan 87, Quinnipiac 68

Three thoughts from Manahttan’s 87-68 victory over Quinnipiac in Sundays second MAAC tournament semifinal game.

George Beamon Wants to Make Up for Missed Opportunity Last Year: When Manhattan dropped last year’s MAAC title game to Iona, they were playing without one of the premier guards in the conference: George Beamon. The senior guard played in just four games last year before suffering an injury and receiving a redshirt exemption for the rest of the season.

Beamon started this year’s MAAC tournament slow, with just six points on 1-of-8 shooting in Manhattan’s quarterfinal victory over St. Peter’s, but exploded for 23 points in the second half in his team’s semifinal game against Quinnipiac. Beamon led all scorers in the contest with 25 points.

With the rematch against Iona in the title game looming Monday evening, Beamon sees the opportunity to push the Jaspers over the edge and into the NCAA tournament.

“Last year was heartbreaking,” Beamon said. “Our guys were so close, and even with me on the sideline, I was doing everything I could for them. It was just a blessing to be out there and to learn not just from playing but from watching. I was telling guys where to go, really knowing the offense, so it was a blessing in disguise. Iona is a great team, but I feel like we’re a great team too.”

Beamon’s 19.1 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game will certainly come in handy Monday night as the Jaspers try to avenge last year’s championship game defeat.

Manhattan is Healthier and Ready for the Rematch: As efficient and dominant a scorer as he is, George Beamon is just one piece of the puzzle for the Jaspers. According to coach Masiello, the Jaspers are much healthier this year and consequently much better prepared to keep up with Iona’s explosive offense.

Rhamel Brown anchors the Manhattan defense, which may prove to be the difference in Monday's MAAC title game (photo courtesy: Stockton Photo)
Rhamel Brown anchors the Manhattan defense, which may prove to be the difference in Monday’s MAAC title game (photo courtesy: Stockton Photo)

“I think we have more depth and we’re healthier this year,” Masiello said. “We have more weapons on the roster from an offensive standpoint. We’re also playing a little different style than last year. We’re really creating the pace. I think our offense can go with most teams.”

If their offense can indeed keep pace with the high-flying Gaels, the Jaspers should find themselves in good shape. Manhattan boasts the most efficient defense in the MAAC and were the only team in the conference to hold opponents to less than 1.00 points per possession during conference play.

“For us, it’s always been about the defensive end,” Masiello added. “When we hold teams below 40%, we have a lot of success. The problem is, we’re playing against a team that you’ve got to watch what you do against. They’ll blow you out in a hurry. That team is the real deal. That’s a Sweet 16 team; that’s how good they are.”

Monday night’s conference title game pits the top two seeds in the conference against each other. Though Iona and Manhattan have duked it out plenty of times in recent years, Masiello believes it’s time both teams were rewarded for their efforts.

“I think there’s two NCAA tournament teams playing tomorrow,” Masiello said. “Regardless of who wins tomorrow, both teams should be in the tournament.”

Injuries Caught Up to the Bobcats: Every team in college basketball has to deal with injuries and overcome adversity, but for this Quinnipiac squad the injury bug may have bitten too many times.

By season’s end, the Bobcats were hobbled with injuries at every turn. Nearly half the roster missed at least one game due to injury, with the most severe blow coming when guard Umar Shannon suffered a season-ending knee injury in Quinnipiac’s loss to Siena on February 27.

“My team has had to practice the last three weeks with sometimes six or seven players,” head coach Tom Moore said. “Things happen in basketball and you have to overcome them, but the issue has clearly been the quality of our practices the last three weeks. We haven’t improved on a daily basis as much as we were through December, January and the early part of February.”

The return of Kasim Chandler, who missed nine games due to a toe injury, definitely boosted the team in their win over Niagara and was key to overcoming Manhattan’s pressure defense in the semifinals.

“Kasim came up here last night and was a stabilizing force for us when we got behind, and the kid was fearless against their pressure tonight,” Moore said. “I throw him in there for 31 minutes and he has one turnover against that team as a freshman. I’m pretty proud of him.”

The Bobcats will return home to lick their wounds, but remain hopeful to continue playing basketball this year despite their slew of injuries.

“I’m really hopeful that we’ll get an invitation to the CBI or CIT,” Moore said. “I’d love to play in any postseason tournament so that I’ll have more time to work with these young men.”

Vincent Simone will be helping to cover the MAAC this season for Big Apple Buckets and will have continual updates from this weekend’s games in Springfield.  You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.

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