As I rode the 1 train up to the Bronx to watch Manhattan play Columbia, the feature I wanted to write on Steve Masiello and the culture change that was happening formed in my head. After starting the season 3-2, the 6-25 record of a season ago was quickly becoming a distant memory. While I climbed the steps up the hill to Draddy Gymnasium the words were already forming in my head, but little did I know all the surprises I was in for.
I think that surprise is my favorite thing about college basketball. While the elements of the game are always the same, and made baskets turn into points which in turn display the dichotomy of winners and losers on the scoreboard, how you get there is never the same. I've seen buzzer beaters and blowouts, technical fouls on timeouts, clutch free throws made and missed, and everything in between. It's probably because college students, some of the most unpredictable people in the world, play the game. But I'm still not smart enough to realize that I should wait to start thinking about my story.
I should've learned this lesson long ago. My first ever college basketball game on deadline for a daily newspaper the home team was up the entire game until collapsing with 5.3 seconds remaining. I had my story completely written. It was useless.
But that didn't stop me from planning in my head this dandy little feature. It would be a perfect thing to write as Manhattan moved to 4-2, just two wins shy of its entire win total from last season. Of course first the Jaspers had to beat Columbia.
And as soon as I walked into the gym and received the starting lineups the surprises started coming. First, Manhattan's George Beamon, the team's leading scorer and offensive soul, wasn't in the starting lineup. Secondly, Alex Rosenberg, a 6'8" freshman forward for Columbia, was. Both were new developments. No one had heard anything about Beamon being injured before Saturday and as the game started and he stayed on the bench press row buzzed about his absence.
Of course one person had to know what was up, Manhattan's SID. He was on the other side of the court busily working during the first half. There wasn't an opportunity to find out what was up during the first 20 minutes as the Lions jumped out to a 27-19 lead at the half.
At halftime the few reporters that were at the game went over to the other side to ask the obvious question, "Why wasn't Beamon playing?" The answer came a few minutes later - an injury, coach's decision. As Manhattan came out to the center circle and stood there clapping while his teammates warmed up it was obvious he wasn't going to play and the Jaspers were going to have to find another way to pull out the win at home against winless Columbia.
They tried too. The Jaspers closed to within five points in the second half, but the Lions never yielded. A 14-0 run sealed the game for visitors midway through the second half. Columbia, which is dealing with its own set of injuries, didn't look like a winless team down the stretch and Rosenberg certainly didn't play like a freshman, handling the Manhattan press very well. In the end Columbia pulled out a 59-41 victory.
It would've been great to write about Rosenberg, a freshman getting his first ever start who came in and tallied 11 points, five rebounds, three steals and only two turnovers in 32 minutes of work, but I was in for another surprise. Columbia doesn't let freshmen talk to the media until second semester. Rosenberg's voice would have to wait for another day.
After the game we found out that Beamon has a thigh contusion that needs to rest in order to heal. He's been playing with it for a little while now and the coaches held him out so he could rest in and get ready for MAAC season play, which starts soon. That's good, because the Jaspers need him in the lineup to be effective.
I never did get to write that feature I had planned. (I did write this article and post these photos.) The feature will have to wait for another day. Surely it'll get written. Manhattan has played much better basketball overall this season, even if it did shoot a miserable 11-42 from the field on Saturday without Beamon. I'll just have to let the story come to me instead of planning it, because college basketball is full of surprises.
COLUMBIA 59, at MANHATTAN 41 11/26/2011
COLUMBIA 1-4 (0-0) -- B. Barbour 8-21 4-4 22; A. Rosenberg 4-8 1-1 11; C. Crockett 2-10 1-2 6; M. Lyles 2-10 0-0 5; J. Daniels 2-3 0-0 4; M. Cisco 2-3 0-0 4; B. Staab 1-4 3-5 5; N. Springwater 0-2 2-2 2; C. Osetkowski 0-0 0-0 0; M. Johnson 0-0 0-0 0; D. Stevens 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-61 11-14 59. MANHATTAN 3-3 (0-0) -- K. Brutus 0-4 2-2 2; M. Alvarado 1-6 3-4 5; E. Andujar 2-8 3-3 7; D. Kates 0-5 0-0 0; L. McCabe-Moran 1-5 2-4 5; R. Colonette 3-7 4-5 10; M. Koita 1-3 2-2 5; R. Brown 3-4 1-3 7; K. Laue 0-0 0-0 0; R. McCoy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 11-42 17-23 41.
Three-point goals: COLU 6-27 (C. Crockett 1-9; B. Barbour 2-7; M. Lyles 1-6; A. Rosenberg 2-3; N. Springwater 0-2), MAN 2-16 (L. McCabe-Moran 1-4; M. Koita 1-2; K. Brutus 0-4; E. Andujar 0-3; D. Kates 0-3); Rebounds: COLU 38 (J. Daniels 11), MAN 31 (E. Andujar 10); Assists: COLU 11 (B. Barbour 4), MAN 7 (M. Alvarado 2); Total Fouls -- COLU 22, MAN 18; Fouled Out: COLU-C. Osetkowski; MAN-None.