Morning Run — Game 22: Manhattan 62, Rider 51
Quick reaction: Jon Thompson swore there weren't too many congratulations or pats on the back after Rider's five-game winning streak, but for whatever reason, the Broncs turned in a sloppy weekend. Instead of rubbing shoulders at the top of the conference, Rider (11-11, 6-4) slipped back to the middle of the pack following Sunday's loss to Manhattan (6-14, 4-6). The Broncs couldn't figure out the Jaspers' 2-3 zone, hitting just 6 of their 22 attempts from beyond the arc, while scoring 14 points in the paint. "It looked like a foreign object to us," said coach Kevin Baggett. In the two games this weekend, Rider averaged 50.5 points per game. That's not going to get it done on your home court.
Danger ahead: Stay out of long losing streaks.
Rider already knows what this feels like, having dropped five straight in December. The good news then — only two of those (vs. Fairfield; at Loyola) were conference games.
The Broncs hit the road for two beginning Friday night at Fairfield and finishing Sunday afternoon at Marist.
The league title is all but out of the question at this point with Rider three games off the pace of first-place Niagara, but the Broncs won't want to slip any further back.
The bottom four teams have to play on Thursday night at the MAAC tournament, meaning they have to win four games instead of three to claim the conference's NCAA automatic berth. Rider is still in decent shape to avoid that — tied with Canisius in fourth at 6-4 — and holding a two-game advantage over Fairfield and Manhattan, who are tied in sixth at 4-6.
But the Broncs will need to earn a split with the Stags Friday night to ensure they don't lose the tiebreaker on head to head.
So, coach, are you feeling nervous?
"It scares the hell out of me," Baggett said. "You have to go into the locker room and look guys in their eyes and see just how much they want it. They have to figure it out too. We don’t always have the answers as coaches. It comes from the players too. They have to step up."
Fortunat out: Sophomore forward Junior Fortunat missed Sunday's game with a concussion. He picked up the injury in practice Saturday.
He'll be evaluated this week and have to pass a series of tests before he can be cleared to play.
McCoy's happy homecoming: Manhattan's Ryan McCoy, a native of Skillman and Montgomery High product, got the chance to shine in a homecoming of sorts.
The sophomore forward scored eight points, including a pair of key 3s during the Jaspers' 15-2 run early in the second half.
"It's always good to play at home," McCoy said. "It's good to get a win, too. It's good for family and friends around the area to stop by and watch me play."
He also mixed it up with Rider's Nurideen Lindsey, sending the Broncs guard flying over the press table with a hard foul.
Neither McCoy nor coach Steve Masiello saw a problem with it.
"People mistake the fall for the foul," Masiello said. "Sometimes the fall looks worse than the foul and I think that was one of those plays. I thought it was a clean play on the ball."
The Jaspers finally got a road win after coming close at Iona, Niagara and Canisius — losing those three games by a combined 16 points.
Masiello said that's a product of getting healthy. While Manhattan is unlikely to get leading scorer George Beamon back, point guard Michael Alvarado has returned.
"We've been so close," Masiello said. "It's nice to finally get the W. We have to go one game at a time, and our goal is to stay in the hunt. While our schedule isn't opponent friendly down the stretch, it is home friendly.
"Good or bad, it comes down to three days in March for this conference."
The Purple Eagles (13-8, 9-1) have won nine straight MAAC games, led by dynamic guards Juan'ya Green and Antoine Mason. Marvin Jordan, who scored a season-high 23 points Sunday, including the game winner with 4.9 seconds left is easily the sixth man of the year.
That's a tough-luck loss for the Griffs (13-8, 6-4), who led for the majority of the contest. There will be no time to wallow or celebrate because Loyola and Iona are on their way to Western New York. And speaking of ...
Iona 79, Loyola 71: Big road win for the Gaels (14-7, 8-2), who took sole possession of second place. The Greyhounds (15-7, 7-3) don't lose often at Reitz Arena so this was a statement by Iona, which has bounced back from its loss to Rider with two straight wins. How's this for another huge game Thursday: Iona at Niagara.
Siena 79, Marist 75: By picking up their first road win in the league, the Saints (5-16, 3-7) at least gave themselves hope of getting out of the bottom four and avoiding the dreaded
Fairfield 61, St. Peter's 54: After the schedule makers unloaded their wrath on Sydney Johnson's club, the Stags (12-10, 4-6) are into the soft portion of the schedule. Of the nine remaining games, only Rider and Iona have winning records. John Dunne's Peacocks (6-14, 1-9), losers of eight in a row, are headed for a last-place finish.