Albany, N.Y. – Manhattan took the first step in their journey toward a third consecutive MAAC tournament championship Thursday night with an 81-63 victory over 11-seeded Marist.
The Jaspers scored a remarkable 1.44 points per possession in the first half and pushed their lead to as much as 26 in the second half. Their 63.5% shooting percentage set a new season high, eclipsing the previous top mark of 56% set against St. Francis Brooklyn and Canisius. It was also the first conference game this season the Jaspers won by double-digits.
Shane Richards led all scorers with 27 points. The Jaspers’ senior knocked down his first eight shots of the game and finished the first half 8-for-9 from the floor including a perfect 4-for-4 from behind the arc.
“I really didn’t even know I didn’t miss a shot until one of my teammates brought it up,” Richards said of the first half. “Of course I missed the next one. I was just trying to be aggressive, stay aggressive, and really just set the tone to start the game.”
Rich Williams and Calvin Crawford each supported the scoring with 16 points apiece while Crawford tacked on eight rebounds.
Despite winning their last two games of the season, Marist could not mount a serious response to the Jaspers’ assault. The Red Foxes were led by 19 points from Khallid Hart and 18 from freshman Isaiah Lamb.
Fellow freshman Brian Parker, a member of the MAAC All-Rookie team, finished with seven points. Why is that notable? Because Parker finished the season with 462 points, two more than 2015 graduate Chavaughn Lewis posted in his freshman season. Thus, Parker now holds the Marist Division I freshman scoring record.
Manhattan now turns their eyes toward Saturday and a date with Siena. The Saints play their home games at the Times Union Center, where the MAAC tournament is held, and consistently have a strong fan force behind them.
“We’re basically coming in trying to take on all of Albany,” Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello said of the upcoming quarterfinal matchup. “Now it’s a matter of us getting ready for it. That’s what we have to do in the next 37 hours, is getting ready for that and understanding what they’re capable of doing in this building. Last time we were here, we lost by 35.”
Manhattan’s two meetings with Siena came early in the season. That 35 point Saints triumph came in December, while Manhattan outlasted Siena in 92-87 in triple-overtime on January 4. The measure of which team has grown more over the last two months would appear to be the key to unlocking Saturday’s result.
“If the team hasn’t grown since December, you’re not really doing something right,” Richards added. “I would hope we’ve grown. I’m sure we have, just like I’m sure they have. It’s going to be a tough game. It’s in their home building and we know what we’re up against.”
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.