Shannon Evans’ free throw dropped through the bucket to give the Buffalo Bulls (4-4) a 75-68 lead with 45 seconds to play, at which point this article’s headline was “Buffalo Snaps Manhattan’s Winning Streak, Perfect Road Record.”
But the backspace key was about to get its fair share of abuse.
Manhattan sophomore Shane Richards curled off a screen and drilled his first three-pointer of the game, beginning a Jasper comeback that would force overtime and result in a victory for the men in green and white.
Manhattan (9-2, 2-0 MAAC) then fouled Buffalo senior Jarod Oldham to extend the game, and Oldham split a pair at the foul line.
After Manhattan freshman Rich Williams missed a three-pointer from the left corner, Manhattan senior Rhamel Brown grabbed the board and dished to senior wing George Beamon, who converted a three-point play to bring the Jaspers within 76-74.
Evans shot the next set of free throws, and he also made one of two, giving the Jaspers one last chance to tie and force overtime with a three-pointer.
Manhattan once again went to Richards, one of the best three-point shooters in the MAAC, but this time Buffalo was on him tighter than a 13-year-0ld boy on Kate Upton.
Without a clear look at the basket, Richards pump faked, got Jarryn Skeete to bite, and then created contact to draw a three-point foul.
With the pressure on, Richards sunk all three free throws to force overtime at 77-77.
In the extra period, Manhattan took the first lead at 81-77 with four straight points from Beamon.
Buffalo senior Joshua Freelove’s three-pointer tied the game at 81 momentarily, but Williams’ steal and layup but Manhattan back on top — and this time for good.
Oldham and Freelove were both denied emphatically at the rim by Manhattan senior Rhamel Brown, who averages 4.2 blocks per game.
Junior guard RaShawn Stores’ free throw for Manhattan put the Jaspers up 84-81, and Evans’ game-tying attempt fell short, sending Buffalo home with a deflating loss and Manhattan with its six straight victory.
“I think it’s one of the greatest wins we’ve had since I’ve been here from a mental toughness standpoint,” Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello said. “We could bend, bend, bend, but we never broke. … I thought every player really contributed, from Carlton Allen who took a major charge all the way down the line to Shane Richards’ free throws.”
With the win, Manhattan also moved to 7-0 in games away from home, the best record in the country.
The Jaspers were led by Beamon’s 22 points, and sophomore forward Ashton Pankey each scored 10.
Brown added eight points, all in the second, six rebounds, four blocks, and a pair of steals.
Williams, though he shot a poor 3-of-13 from the field, had nine points and seven rebounds.
Emmy Andujar also struggled from the field at 1-of-7, but he had an impressive all-around game with nine points, four rebounds, six assists, and four steals.
Manhattan was without starting point guard Michael Alvarado and reserve wing Donovan Kates for essentially the entire game after both were ejected for leaving the bench during an altercation early in the first half. But Stores and freshman Tyler Wilson did more than an adequate job of filling Alvarado’s role.
“Unfortunately, we made a mistake that you just cannot do when two of our players left the bench over just two teams playing hard,” Masiello said. “There’s no need for that in college basketball.”
Stores finished with 10 points, including a pair of key three-pointers, and two assists; Wilson posted six points, four assists, and three steals off the bench.
Saturday was the second time this season Manhattan completed a remarkable comeback. Against Columbia on Nov. 12, the Jaspers survived on a Beamon and-one off a missed free throw with less than one second remaining.
“This team, there’s just something about them,” Masiello said. “Even at times when I’m like, ‘Okay, we’re in trouble here.’ Whether it’s at Colubmia or here, they find a way to win. Is there luck? Yeah, there’s a little luck. But I think you create your own luck. The way you work, the way you handle yourself — you create your own luck. The harder you work, the luckier you’re getting.”
For Buffalo, senior forward Javon McCrea continued his campaign for MAC Player of the Year with 18 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, and three steals.
Evans led the Bulls in scoring with 20 points off the bench. The freshman struggled from the field but converted 13-of-15 at the charity stripe and dished out five assists.
Freelove recorded 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting and also had five blocks.
“We gave a winning effort and just didn’t make all the necessary plays down the stretch,” Buffalo head coach Bobby Hurley said.
The Bulls struggled most with ball security, as the Jaspers finished the game with a season-high 16 steals. In total, the Bulls turned over the ball 22 times.
“That was a problem for us, handling their trapping defense,” Hurley said. “Turning it over 20 times doesn’t put you in a position to win.”
Buffalo heads back upstate to host Binghamton on Monday afternoon while Manhattan will wait to play until Jan. 2, when it returns to MAAC competition at St. Peter’s.