Iona ran its winning streak over archrival Manhattan to six as the Gaels took down the Jaspers 88-75 behind 30 points from Schadrac Casimir Friday night at the Hynes Athletic Center in New Rochelle.
Casimir’s tremendous performance was far from his first against the Jaspers. The redshirt junior has been a thorn in Manhattan’s side throughout his career, averaging 18.4 ppg with a 66.7% mark behind the arc in seven meetings with the Jaspers.
“I think it’s just a great rivalry,” Iona coach Tim Cluess said. “The players on both teams just bring a tremendous amount of energy to their game. Schadrac has been fortunate enough to have good games. I’m not surprised when anyone on either team has a good game, because the energy level is just different.”
Casimir finished the night 5-7 from three-point range and 8-13 overall. His 30 points were his most since posting 33 against Marist on Feb. 8, 2015 during a campaign which would see him be named MAAC Rookie of the Year.
“I felt like we shot the ball really well today,” Casimir said. “I got a lot of open shots and got a lot of my teammates open shots. I think the key for us is swinging the ball.”
The Jaspers won the opening tip ahead to Thomas Capuano, who converted a layup just two seconds into the game, but it was the last time Manhattan would hold an advantage. Iona seized the lead mere seconds later on a Rickey McGill triple and never looked back, leading by as many as 16 in the first half.
Manhattan was able to whittle the Gaels’ lead down to seven with 4:00 remaining in the opening frame, but Iona closed on an 11-5 run to bring a 47-34 advantage into the locker room.
The Gaels carried their momentum into the second half, bursting out on an 8-1 run to open up their largest lead of the night at 20. Iona maintained a comfortable lead for much of the second half, but the Jaspers kept battling, putting together separate runs of 7-0 and 10-4, and eventually cutting the deficit to six with 5:45 remaining.
However, that was as close as the Jaspers would get as Casimir scored nine consecutive Iona points to help the Gaels double up Manhattan 14-7 down the stretch.
Iona’s Zach Lewis missed the game with an illness, though the rest of the Gael’s guard corps more than made up for his absence. McGill finished a perfect 7-7 from the field for 17 points and seven rebounds while E.J. Crawford posted 14 points with a team-high six rebounds.
“I didn’t think he was doing a good job early and I talked to him about that at the beginning of the second half,” Cluess said of Crawford’s aggressiveness on the glass. “I thought he came out and got some rebounds in traffic, not just ones where he’s by himself, so I thought that was impressive.”
Pauly Paulicap led Manhattan with 16 points and matched a career high with 13 rebounds. The athletic big man has now matched that rebounding record in three of his last six games.
“I love his potential and I love his mentality and I love his work ethic,” Manhattan coach Steve Masiello said of Paulicap. “I’m very happy about that, but what he does in the next 26 months will determine his future and his lifestyle. That’s something we’ve already had conversations about, making those right steps to continue to grow, to not be complacent, and to get the very best out of him to make him the most dominant big – or one of them – in the country.”
Capuano capped the night with 15 points, just two shy of his season high and his third double-digit effort of the season. Rich Williams added 14 points while Zavier Turner finished with a career-high 11 assists.
Both Manhattan and Iona will end their regular seasons with meaningful games on Sunday. The Jaspers host Quinnipiac with both teams in a scrum for fifth place in the league alongside Fairfield and Monmouth, who meet Saturday. Meanwhile, Iona will attempt to spoil Rider’s bid for a regular season title when the two meet in New Jersey with the Gaels also battling Niagara for third place.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.