Manhattan College misses mark from downtown, drops game to Fordham Rams

Courtesy of Manhattan Athletics
Courtesy of Manhattan Athletics

Points left on board hold Jaspers back in loss to rival Rams

By Joe Manganiello

Bronx, N.Y. — The Jaspers made 26 shots from the field on Tuesday night. They also missed 26 shots from behind the arc. Both stats proved costly in their four-point loss to Fordham.

Senior George Beamon has scored at least 24 points in each game this season, but struggled against the zone defense of Fordham, shooting just 7 for 21 from the field. Beamon was 5 for 10 on two-point shots, and he performed well at the line, making 8 of 9 free throws. But Beamon shot an alarming 2 for 11 from the perimeter, leading all players in attempts (and misses) from long-range. He was 0 for 5 from three-point land in the first half – the Jaspers trailed the entire opening period – before making two of his final six tries in the second, and that wasn’t enough.

As a team, the Jaspers made just three shots from behind the line each half – which looks worse when factoring in their 32 attempts on the night. Sophomore Shane Richards buried three long-range shots in the first half, including a pair of threes deep on the right wing. Junior Donovan Kates added a set shot from the top of the key in the second half to join Beamon and Richards as the only Jaspers, however, to connect from downtown.

Four other players for Manhattan combined for nine missed perimeter shots on the night, and the team finished shooting 18.8 percent from three-point land.

Fordham has a very athletic zone. It starts with freshman Jon Severe (who figures to be one of the best players on the floor every game this season) chasing next to sophomore Jermaine Myers and junior Chris Whitehead, depending on which guard is in the game. Severe is so quick that a mistake with the basketball around him is asking for a one-man fastbreak the opposite way. (It should be noted, in contrast, that Severe is very much still learning where to be on the floor, as he was caught out of position on many of Manhattan’s three-point attempts. Luckily for the freshman the Jaspers failed to connect on the majority of them.)

Senior Branden Frazier and sophomore Mandell Thomas make up for a lack of size with excellent timing on rebounds. Thomas, in particular, has been great on the glass, grabbing at least seven rebounds in four of five games. And while sophomore Ryan Rhoomes and junior Travion Leonard are not the biggest or fastest players, they have embraced their role centering the zone, combining on Tuesday for nine points and thirteen rebounds in 40 minutes.

The Rams are still working out many of the kinks that come with transitioning to zone from primarily man-to-man defenses under head coach Tom Pecora. Until the team is comfortable with all of the nuances of the zone, there will be plenty of weak spots for the opposition to pick at. (Credit Pecora though for making a bold decision early in the year to try something new. The Rams are a very small team, and have limited personnel right now with junior Ryan Canty recently leaving the program, and junior Bryan Smith and freshman Antwoine Anderson out with injuries.)

One tactic that worked well for Manhattan throughout the game was screening the weak-side chaser to open up the lane. The ball handler (Beamon on most plays) would start at the top of the key, then pull the defense in one direction, usually away from Severe. A forward would step into the high post behind Severe, and Beamon would begin his move past the other chaser (Myers or Whitehead). Beamon would blow by his “man” (the nearest chaser) and use the back-screen to drive by Severe.

Once in the lane, Beamon had a few options. With two defenders suddenly behind him, Beamon would have enough real estate in front of him to choose between an open mid-range jumper, or continuing to the basket where the zone either had to collapse and foul him or allow him a clean look at the rim. Manhattan could have run variations of this play the entire game – side pick-and-rolls with Beamon could have been lethal against Fordham’s shorter base-line defenders – but too often settled for three-point shots that were too deep.

With 4:07 left in the game, Beamon changed speeds and knifed his way into the middle of the Rams defense, drawing an And-1 that put the Jaspers ahead, 73-71. The crowd went nuts. Then it all fell apart. The Jaspers missed a pair of threes on their next possession, and after Severe tied the game on the other end, Beamon attempted and missed a three-pointer with just thirteen seconds run off the shot clock. Frazier gave the Rams a two-point lead with a drive to the basket with under a minute left to play.

Head coach Steve Masiello called a timeout, but the Jaspers couldn’t find what they were looking for, and with 30 seconds left in the game, senior Michael Alvarado shot and missed his first three-pointer of the game. (I’m assuming that wasn’t the play call.) Frazier sank two clutch free throws and extended the Fordham lead to four points, and still it wasn’t over. Beamon came down and drove directly to the basket (what a great idea) scoring with twelve seconds remaining. The Jaspers were looking to force a steal on the in-bounds play, but Frazier evaded defenders long enough to launch a pass downcourt for a wide-open Travion Leonard, who threw down a thunderous game-ending dunk.

It was an odd finish to a game that felt like it would have gone in Manhattan’s favor if they played the final minutes of the game differently. While the Rams lived at the foul line, drawing 28 fouls and attempting 37 foul shots, the Jaspers failed to take advantage of getting every Rams starter in relative foul trouble – six of seven Fordham players finished the game with at least three personal fouls. Manhattan fell in love with the three-ball when they should have challenged Fordham at the basket until they proved they could stop them.

Masiello is going to see plenty of zone throughout the season as teams attempt to slow down Beamon, who is at times an effortless scorer. They are going to need to improve on consistently getting into the middle of those zones, and not settling for the long shots that the defense dares them to take.

Joe Manganiello (@joemags32) is a staff writer for pickinsplinters.com. He was published in the 2013-14 USA Today Sports College Basketball Preview. He studied journalism and cinema at Oswego State University – Peace, love, recycle and ball.

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