Manhattan Jaspers Improve to 1-1 in MAAC with 75-55 Win over Siena Saints

Jesse KramerCorrespondent IDecember 9, 2012

Mar 3, 2012; Springfield, MA, USA; Manhattan Jaspers guard Mohamed Koita (5), forward Roberto Colonette (22) and forward Emmy Andujar (13) celebrate during the first half of the quarterfinal round of the 2012 Metro Atlantic Conference Tournament against the Siena Saints at the Mass Mutual Center.  Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Manhattan was upset by Marist on Friday night to begin MAAC play, but the Jaspers came back much stronger on Sunday afternoon to defeat Siena in their first home game of the conference play.

Manhattan (3-5, 1-1 MAAC) came out strong in the first half and built a 22-9 lead behind junior Rhamel Brown's eight, early points.

Siena (2-9, 0-2 MAAC) fought back over the final few minutes of the half, and Rakeem Brookins' back-to-back jumpers in the final minute trimmed the Manhattan lead to 38-31 at intermission.

The Jaspers were sluggish to begin the second half, missing all seven of their shots and turning the ball over twice during the first five minutes of the period. During that time, Siena cut the lead to two at 38-36.

Michael Alvarado's steal and transition layup ignited an 18-5 run that put Manhattan ahead by 15 points. During the run, freshman Shane Richards drilled three three-pointers, giving him a new career high of nine points.

The Saints crawled back within 12 points with about seven minutes remaining, but Manhattan warded off the comeback with a 13-5 run to end the game.

After seeing Siena play, it is no surprise that the Saints have lost seven games in a row and have not scored more than 66 points in a single game.

Although O.D. Anosike is a double-double machine and the nation's No. 2 rebounder with 13 boards per game, he is a liability on the defensive end. Brown controlled the paint the entire game, as Anosike seemed too afraid to play tough defense at the risk of fouling. Although he may have the statistics of a MAAC Player of the Year candidate, there are definitely more talented players in the conference.

Also, the Saints backcourt is a mess.

Sophomore Evan Hymes, who was one of the top freshmen in the MAAC last season, has watched all his numbers drop, except for his turnovers, which have ballooned to 4.8 per game. He has shot better than 40 percent from the field in only three games and has had fewer than three turnovers only once.

Brookins, who has missed a few games due to an injury, is also very inefficient. He is shooting only 32.9 percent from the field and 7-of-33 from beyond the arc. Although he had a solid game on Sunday with 19 points on 7-of-17 shooting, he had seven turnovers against the Manhattan pressure.

On the other side, Manhattan showed that it still has the potential to challenge for a MAAC title, even without injured star George Beamon.

The Jaspers have struggled to score without Beamon in the lineup, but multiple players stepped up on that front.

Brown led all scorers with a career-high 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting while adding three blocks.

Sophomore Emmy Andujar had 11 points, seven rebounds and two steals, and Alvarado added 10 points.

Stores, who has struggled to find a groove in his first season of Division I basketball, is finally looking comfortable on the court. On Sunday, he had a great all-around game with 12 points on four three-pointers, five rebounds, six assists and two steals.

Over his last three games, Stores is averaging 10.7 points and 4.3 rebounds. More importantly, he has 12 assists and only one turnover during that stretch.

The most important stat of the day for Manhattan: 10 turnovers. All season the Jaspers have struggled taking care of the basketball, averaging 21 giveaways through their first seven games.

Manhattan will return to action on Sunday, December 16, when it takes on defending NEC champion LIU-Brooklyn on the road.