Manhattan 61, St. Francis Brooklyn 54: Three Thoughts

Coaches can preach about hustle and desire all they want, and they surely will for the next three months of the college basketball season. But it’s very hard to win if you can’t shoot the basketball or score in and around the paint.

Such is the dilemma St. Francis Brooklyn and Glenn Braica have had this season, as a pretty good defensive effort went to waste in a 61-54 loss at the Pope Center to city rival Manhattan Tuesday night.

The Terriers (2-10) huffed and puffed and generally made things difficult for the Jaspers (4-8) much of the night, even grabbing a halftime lead. But once Manhattan (or more specifically, Zavier Turner) started making shots, they just couldn’t answer. A decent amount of the credit does go to the Manhattan defense, which had another solid performance and seemed to contest every shot St. Francis Brooklyn took. However, would an extra pass or shot fake at an opportune time have made the difference?

“I thought we did a good job at times, but sometimes we didn’t move the ball,” Braica said. “They have very active hands. They’re very good at what they do. You have to be really disciplined, and our young guys really have to learn to trust each other. When we moved the ball, we got decent shots. When we didn’t, we ended up hoisting shots.”

Perhaps “hoist” is the best takeaway word from Tuesday night in Brooklyn. If you’ve watched basketball, you know one when you see it, very often coming with the shot clock rapidly approaching zero. Going forward, the fewer hoists the better. For both teams.

“It’s a very tough place to play and the kids played very hard,” Manhattan coach Steve Masiello said, “I think they’re going to be very good in their conference, so any time you can come here and get a road win, I’m happy. Our defense was tremendous. Our offense isn’t really in sync right now, but that’s an easy fix. The defense is a hard fix and that’s there.”


What else did we learn in front of a fairly disappointing crowd (443) in Brooklyn Heights?:

1) Zavier Turner holds the key for Manhattan

Turner’s 7 three-pointers (on just 9 attempts) were tied for second all-time in Manhattan history (Bruce Seals hit 9 on January 31, 2000, but it took him four overtimes and 27 attempts – then a Division I record), and he finished with 26 points. Turner was clearly the best offensive player on the floor in the second half, but Masiello knows from experience for the Jaspers to be MAAC contenders, he needs him to be the floor leader every night.

“He made some shots, but he’s so much better than he’s showing,” Masiello said. ”He’s one of the most explosive guys in the country. He’s picking his spots, he’s got to learn how to play hard and lead all the time. He’s as good as I’ve coached and he needs to do that for 40 minutes.”


Turner did have a solid assist rate en route to being MAC Rookie of the Year in 2013-14 and is near the top of the MAAC currently (26.5%, while shooting 51.7% from three-point range, third nationally for players with 60 attempts or more). He made a couple of tough shots in the lane late when Manhattan was trying to bleed the clock with the lead, and that’s the stuff (along with the defense) that will move the Jaspers up the MAAC standings. Fans in Riverdale can take solace in the fact that the last time Manhattan started 4-8, it won the MAAC (2014-15).

“It’s a process,” Turner said, “I’m getting better and better. The team is getting better and better. You’re going to see Manhattan rolling I think soon.”

2) Filling the middle

I don’t think calling 7’1” Egyptian Ahmed Ismail a work in progress on the offensive end is too much of a slight on him. But he is so big, that his mere presence alone at the mid-major level makes it very tough to finish near the rim in Manhattan’s aggressive zone. Therefore, although Zavier Peart started (9 minutes) and Ak Ojo (7) was first off the bench, it was Ismail who was on the floor in crunch time and he did an admirable job: 24 minutes, 6 points, 8 rebounds, 1 block, and several adjusted shots.

That rim protector was sorely missing last season and with (hopefully) a healthy Rich Williams to go with Turner, Aaron Walker Jr., and Calvin Crawford (who only saw 7 minutes of action Tuesday), they’ll be much more dangerous on the offensive end. And maybe they won’t need fiery halftime speeches.

“I told them there would not be a Christmas holiday if they didn’t change very quickly,” Masiello said. “I was so frustrated, not because of our effort, but because we weren’t playing smart basketball. We were trying to drive the basketball every time against a team that really clogged the lane and we got no ball movement or player movement.”

3) NEC play is coming

If you’re going to be 2-10, you might as well do it in the NEC, where St. Francis Brooklyn probably has just as good a shot as anyone else, especially if Wagner’s Romone Saunders is indeed lost for the season. Although their offensive numbers are tough to look at (339th in efficiency after posting a weak 0.77 ppp Tuesday), they did hold Manhattan to 0.87 ppp.

The problem at both ends appears to be in the paint, which may have something to do with their tough competition, but they’ll need some people to step up, defensively either freshman Robert Montgomery or sophomore Jahmel Bodrick, who rotated at center. Right now, St. Francis Brooklyn is shooting 40.2% on two-point shots (342nd, with Yunus Hopkinson only 15-50 and Glenn Sanabria just 23-59 from inside the arc), while conceding at a 54.5% rate (300th), so that will be a good place to start. The Terriers are also 318th in getting to the free throw line and 321st in fouling.

“We improved a little today, I thought. But we have to be more consistent,” Braica said. “With young guys, we’re playing in spurts. We’re not playing the whole 40 minutes like we need to be successful. People don’t understand how focused you have to be with the concentration, it’s not just mental, it’s physical, it’s emotional. Young guys don’t understand that because where they were in high school, they could get away with it because they were the best player, but not here.

“Listen, we knew this was a possibility. We caught a couple of tough breaks, some teams are better than we thought. Like I tell them, it’s either going to make you better or it’s going to break you and we’re going to find out soon in conference play.”


Game 25 – Manhattan at St. Francis Brooklyn – Times change, but the Pope Center is as cozy as ever. #TMMLegacy

A photo posted by Ray Curren (@goldenbally) on


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