RIVERDALE, N.Y. – For the Manhattan College men’s basketball team, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) season couldn’t have started any better. After winning at Rider for the first time in nine years on Friday night, the Jaspers were just as impressive in their first home conference game. Manhattan (5-4, 2-0 MAAC) used a dominating defensive performance to notch a 68-42 victory over defending MAAC champion Saint Peter’s (2-5, 1-1 MAAC) at Draddy Gymnasium on Sunday afternoon.
“I’m very proud of the effort our guys gave on the defensive end,” Head Coach Steve Masiello said. “It all starts on the defensive end. When you can get stops like we did, it gets you out on the break and lets you get a lot of easy looks.”
The lead changed hands six times in the early going until a George Beamon (Roslyn, N.Y.) jumper midway through the first half put the Jaspers up 13-12. That bucket started a 10-0 run that saw Manhattan build a nine-point advantage, 21-12, with 4:24 remaining before halftime.
The rally was sparked by the Manhattan defense, as Rhamel Brown (Brooklyn, N.Y.) had five blocks in the first half, energizing the crowd more and more with each one, and the Jaspers held Saint Peter’s without a field goal for a span of more than eight minutes during their run. Manhattan took its largest lead of the half when Michael Alvarado’s (Bronx, N.Y.) jumper made it 23-13 at the 3:06 mark, and the Jaspers took a 26-19 advantage into the locker room.
Manhattan extended its lead to 16 points after back-to-back-to-back treys from Emmy Andujar (Bronx, N.Y.), Mohamed Koita (Cergy, France) and Beamon early in the second half, and Saint Peter’s would not pull any closer the rest of the way. With the Jaspers in front 48-32 and 9:14 left on the clock, Beamon sank a pair of free throws to start a 16-3 run that increased the lead to 29 points, 64-35, with 2:56 remaining. After notching a 16-point victory at Rider on Friday, Manhattan topped Saint Peter’s by 26 points, 68-42.
“Everybody stepped up,” Beamon said. “We just put it all together. If we play like that, the sky’s the limit.”
Beamon was the only Jasper in double figures, notching a game-high 22 points. He added four rebounds, two assists and four steals. Andujar added nine points, while Liam McCabe-Moran (New Rochelle, N.Y.), Donovan Kates (Hopkinsville, Ky.) and Brown contributed seven points apiece. Brown flirted with a triple-double, matching his career-high with six blocks to go along with nine boards. Manhattan shot 48.9 percent (23-of-47) from the field and outrebounded Saint Peter’s 37-26. The Jaspers shot 37.5 percent (6-of-16) from three-point land and 66.7 percent (16-of-24) at the charity stripe.
Blaise French led the Peacocks with 17 points off the bench. Darius Conley added seven points to go along with a team-high five rebounds and three blocks. Saint Peter’s was held without a three-point basket in the game, going 0-for-7 from downtown. Overall, the Peacocks shot 32.6 percent (14-of-43) from the field and 58.3 percent (14-of-24) at the line.
With the win, Manhattan moved to 2-0 in the MAAC for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
“Early conference games can come back and bite you if you don’t take care of business,” Masiello said. “These are as big as the Feb. 26 games or late January games. So to be 2-0 in the conference early, I’m really happy with our guys. I couldn’t ask for anything else. This is where I want us to be.”
The Jaspers resume non-conference play with a matchup against local rival Fordham (2-3) on Wednesday night. The 104th annual “Battle of the Bronx” gets underway at 7 p.m. at Draddy Gymnasium.