By Jesse Kramer
13 months and 3 days ago, Manhattan went to Iona, then undefeated in conference play, and upset the Gaels on a Emmy Andujar three-pointer as time expired.
Fast forward to February 2013, and Andujar was the hero once again. After Michael Alvarado missed a potential game-tying free throw in the final seconds of the second overtime, Rhamel Brown grabbed an offensive rebound and kicked it out to Alvarado. Alvarado dished to Andujar, who drove the lane and finished with his right hand to put Manhattan on top, 74-73, with 3.8 ticks on the clock.
The ensuing Iona possession resulted in a long three-point attempt by forward Taaj Ridley that misfired off the backboard.
The Manhattan student section stormed the floor, and the celebration followed, leaving Brown with green bodypaint covering his home, white jersey.
“It’s one of those things where I thought the crowd was one of the better crowds we’ve ever had here,” said Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello. “It was just a great college basketball game.”
Draddy Gymnasium was electric from the opening tip, and Manhattan (10-15, 8-7 MAAC) jumped out to a 19-13 lead behind the stellar play of Brown. The junior from Brooklyn scored 12 of the first 19, and he also had five rebounds and five blocks during that stretch. Brown, who set Manhattan’s all-time record for career blocks at Fairfield earlier in the week, would finish with 21 points, 17 rebounds, and seven blocks.
“He is gonna be one of the greatest players to ever put on a Manhattan uniform,” Masiello said. “He is what the student-athlete is all about.”
Iona (15-11, 9-6 MAAC) fought back as Momo Jones, the nation’s third-leading scorer, heated up, and the Gaels went into halftime with a 33-31 advantage.
They would also draw first blood in the second half, taking a 38-33 lead behind strong play from sophomore David Laury in the post.
Manhattan sophomore Donovan Kates responded out of the under-16 timeout with five straight points to tie the contest, and on the next possession Alvarado nailed a mid-range jumper to put the Jaspers back on top.
The game went back and forth during the final 10 minutes of regulation, and both teams hit scoring droughts at the seven-minute mark.
When Sean Armand hit a three-pointer with 3:23 on the clock to put Iona up 58-54, the general feeling was that the Gaels were starting to close the door, considering that Manhattan had not hit a field goal in more than five minutes.
But Andujar came back down the floor for a layup, and two possessions later he finished at the rim once again, while getting fouled, to knot the score at 58-58. He missed the free throw, but the Jaspers made the necessary defensive stop to preserve the tie. Brown’s fallaway jumper as time expired did not drop, and so the referees put an extra five minutes on the clock.
In the first overtime, Iona scored opened with four straight points, quieting the Draddy crowd.
After the Jaspers had been held scoreless for nearly half of the extra period, freshman Shane Richards, who finished with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc, drained a three-pointer from the left corner to reignite the crowd.
“He’s one of the better shooters in the country,” said Masiello. “You leave him open, it’s going down.”
With one minute left in overtime, Brown, a 39.7 percent free-throw shooter, made a pair from the charity stripe to force a 65-65 tie.
With 7.6 seconds remaining, Iona controlled the ball and called for a timeout. When play resumed, Jones wasted time walking the ball into the frontcourt and settled for an unnecessarily long three-pointer that missed as the buzzer sounded.
Jones called it a “good shot,” but Iona coach Tim Cluess was disappointed. “I had a problem with the shot at the time because I didn’t think he attacked like he should have or ran what we called in the timeout,” Cluess said.
Brown scored three more points in the second overtime, but in the end his offensive rebound in the final seconds was what saved the game.
“The game is on the line,” Masiello said as he reflected on the final play. “I don’t believe in having big guys on the foul line because they foul and go over the back. (Rhamel) says, ‘Coach, put me on the line. If Mike misses, I’ll get the rebound.’ I said, ‘Rhamel, no.’ He says, ‘Coach, no. I got it.’ He goes to the line, Mike misses, (Rhamel) tips it out, and we win the game.”
“I can’t take credit for everything I do,” said Brown, who had 10 offensive rebounds. Overall, the Jaspers outrebounded Iona, 50-34. “My team penetrated well, forced them to rotate. And when a team’s in rotation, it makes it hard for them to block out.”
This win was the Jaspers’ fourth in a row, and they are now only one game out of third place in the MAAC. With three games to be played, only three games separate first place from seventh place in the conference.
“You look back at our last six games,” Masiello said. “We’re holding teams to 34 percent from the field, and…we’re holding teams right around 54 (points per game).” Masiello also said, “As long as we defend and play with emotion and energy, I’m a happy camper.”
But things are not looking as bright on the Iona side, as the Gaels have now lost four of their last five games. Of their six MAAC losses, none have been by more than five points. Of their 11 losses overall, only one has come by more than eight points.
“We’re running out of new ways to lose late games. We seem to be inventing new ones,” said a frustrated Cluess. “That all has to fall on me…We’re fighting, we’re scrapping, and then late in the game we just make some really bad mistakes that cost us the games.” Cluess went on to say, “If we box out, the game’s ours…They (the Gaels) should compete and get that rebound. They should find a way. Manhattan found a way.”
The Jaspers will look to continue finding ways to win when they host first-place Niagara (15-11, 11-4 MAAC) on Sunday afternoon.