Manhattan came to play with a sense of urgency and the Red Foxes were unable to match that early in the game. Marist dug themselves into a hole, one that was too deep. The Jaspers hit timely shots down the stretch, helping them earn a 80-69 win on the road.
“Tip your hat to Manhattan, they were the better team tonight,” said Marist head coach John Dunne. “I think we certainly had a rough first half and we came to compete in the second half. We did some nice things in the second half, but we have to get better defensively.”
Sophomore guard Noah Harris opened the scoring with a three-pointer from the right wing. After a three from Manhattan forward Nick Brennen tied the game, Stephane Ingo made a jumper from inside the paint to give the Red Foxes a 5-3 advantage.
That would be the last time Marist led in the contest.
A large part of why the Jaspers jumped ahead came down to their dribble penetration. Manhattan guard Ant Nelson was getting into the paint at will, dishing it out to open shooters who were consistently making three-pointers. The Jaspers went on an extended 22-4 run, leading 25-9 with 09:45 remaining in the first.
For large stretches of the half, the Red Foxes could not use their size advantage. Anytime Patrick Gardner got a touch in the post, the Jaspers would immediately send a second defender to get the ball out of his hands.
While Gardner was not getting a ton of looks for himself, he was creating them for his teammates. On three or four possessions in the first half, the 6-foot-11 center found Noah Harris and Kam Farris at the top of the key, who knocked their shots down. Marist was moving the ball more frequently, and it helped them cut the lead to five with over three minutes left in the first half.
But just as they did all night, Manhattan created enough offense for themselves, especially with the shot clock winding down. Just when it seemed like Marist had a chance to take the lead into halftime, the Jaspers went on a run. Nelson scored five of the last seven points in the first, giving Manhattan a 41-28 at the break.
Marist came out of halftime with a different game plan offensively, with most of their shots coming from inside the paint. Gardner, who only had one field goal attempt in the opening 20 minutes, was getting paint touches on almost every possession in the half court. That decision quickly paid off for the Red Foxes, as a 13-6 run got Marist within six at the 14:35 mark in the second half.
Once again, all the signs pointed towards a momentum shift for Marist. But as he did in the first, Nelson scored at will. The guard was constantly driving into the paint, causing all kinds of problems for the Red Foxes. In less than two minutes, Manhattan scored eight consecutive points to increase their advantage to 14, led by two made baskets from Nelson.
Marist got within seven on two separate occasions down the stretch, but Manhattan continued to find ways to score the basketball. The Red Foxes had no way of preventing the scoring ability of Nelson and Stewart. The Jaspers hit all their free throws once it became a game of fouling, resulting in an 11-point victory for their second conference win of the season.
The Red Foxes may have only lost the rebound battle 29-26, but they did surrender second chance opportunities to Manhattan in critical moments. “They beat us up on the boards. We did a good job when we did get stops, then we did not secure the rebound as part of playing defense. We have to grow and we have to get better,” coach Dunne said.
Ant Nelson had his hands all over this game, scoring a game-high 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field and 3-for-3 shooting from three in 35 minutes. The only blemish on his performance was the eight turnovers, which tied a season-high for him.
Samir Stewart, who came into the contest as the leading scorer for the Jaspers, had a big offensive night. The fifth year guard scored 20 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field and 6-for-9 shooting from three, despite playing just 21 minutes. Stewart was in foul trouble for most of the night, although he did make most of his opportunities on the floor.
Noah Harris had a strong performance for the Red Foxes, scoring 14 points on 4-for-6 shooting from the field and 3-for-5 shooting from three. He is now averaging 18.5 points per game in his last two contests. “I have more confidence in myself and I am trying to go out there and play. The coaches keep telling me to shoot the ball, so that gives me the confidence to score,” Harris said about his recent uptick in scoring.
Marist will have another chance to get their first MAAC win of the season later this week, traveling down to New Jersey to face the Rider Broncs on Dec. 22. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Alumni Gymnasium.