Three Thoughts: Manhattan 80, Hofstra 68

It was the “other” Zavier’s turn to shine Friday night. Zavier Peart led the Jaspers with 16 points as Manhattan dispatched local rival Hofstra 80-68 at Draddy Gymnasium.

Manhattan's Zavier Peart had a breakout night with 16 points Friday vs. Hofstra
Manhattan’s Zavier Peart had a breakout night with 16 points Friday vs. Hofstra

While Ball State transfer Zavier Turner has emerged as an early-season leader for the Jaspers, it was Peart who broke out with a career effort against the Pride. The Eastern Florida State College transfer knocked down his first eight shots of the night and provided the Jaspers a much-needed boost off the bench.

Manhattan has never begun a season 0-3 in the Steve Masiello era, and decisively avoided that mark once again. After the Pride got off to a quick start, Manhattan responded and seized control of the game. Hofstra jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the first 4:16. However, a Peart jumper just over two minutes later provided the Jaspers with a lead they would never relinquish.

The Jaspers led by eight at halftime, but the Pride were never able to cut the deficit below six at any point in the second half.

Here are three observations from Manhattan’s victory over Hofstra:

1.) Manhattan put its versatility on display. In the preseason, I wrote about the Jaspers’ desire to operate with multiple interchangeable parts. That philosophy has been fast-tracked with the early-season absence of senior Rich Williams, who has yet to play a minute this season while nursing a knee injury.

Friday night provided the first example of what Manhattan’s Swiss Army knife system is capable of. All eleven Jaspers scored, with four reaching double digits. Behind Peart, Zane Waterman and Aaron Walker Jr. contributed 15 points apiece while Turner added 11.

“He’s a new person,” Masiello said of Peart after his breakout game. “There’s an alpha male in him that just came out. He got a new haircut, whole new look, changed himself. I give him a lot of credit, we give him the blueprint and he follows it. I’m really proud of him for that.”

Waterman finished one rebound shy of his first double-double of the season, but along with Ahmed Ismail, Peart and others, held Hofstra’s dynamic forward Rokas Gustys to just seven points and eight rebounds.

In a small measure of revenge, Manhattan also shut down Hofstra’s Deron Powers. Powers played just his third game with the Pride, but was a familiar foe to the Jaspers. In March 2015, Powers helped lead Hampton University to a 74-64 victory over Masiello’s team in the NCAA tournament’s First Four. Powers posted eight points and seven assists in that tournament win, but was held to seven points on 1-8 shooting with three assists against six turnovers Friday night.

“We were definitely worried about Powers,” Masiello admitted after Friday’s win. “He’s seen our pressure, he knows how to attack us so he’s a guy we have a lot of respect for.”

2.) Lights-out from the line. Manhattan struggled from the charity stripe in their first two games of the season, but could not miss Friday night. The Jaspers entered the evening shooting 64.5% from the free throw line, but shot a perfect 17-17 against the Pride to improve their season average to 72.1%.

Hofstra freshman Eli Pemberton continued his sizzling start with 15 points in the Pride's loss
Hofstra freshman Eli Pemberton continued his sizzling start with 15 points in the Pride’s loss

Turner and Walker Jr. each finished 4-4 from the free throw line to pace the team. The performance came on the heels of a sloppy loss to Winthrop Tuesday morning in which both teams combined for a total of 85 free throw attempts.

3.) Hofstra is still figuring out life after Juan’ya Green. As mentioned above, Powers struggled in his point guard role Friday night, and that performance follows a single-assist night in the Pride’s loss at Sacred Heart last Tuesday.

“We’re still trying to figure that out,” head coach Joe Mihalich said of the point guard position. “Deron, Desure [Buie], you think they’re both going to play about 20 minutes and you’re going to get a lot of good numbers out of both of them, but I don’t know that either one of them had a good night tonight. We’re still trying to find that role. It is the post-Juan’ya Green era.”

Overall, Hofstra’s backcourt has been better than expected in the wake of Green and Ameen Tanksley’s graduation. A big reason for that is the surprising start to freshman Eli Pemberton’s career. The Middletown, CT native led the Pride in scoring each of their first two games and posted 15 Friday night.

Pemberton would have tied for the team lead once again if not for an inconsequential dunk from Justin Wright-Foreman at the final buzzer during which the Jaspers displayed the basketball equivalent of defensive indifference. Wright-Foreman led all scorers with 17 points, a new career-high for the sophomore.

“He can score the basketball,” Mihalich said of Wright-Foreman. “He just needs to get that feeling of doing it when it counts, and he did that tonight. Very few bright spots tonight, but that’s one of them.”

Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.

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