When even the one-handed Kevin Laue scores on you, you know things aren't going your way. That's the position Canisius was in on Friday night when Laue's layup late in the second half bumped the Jaspers' lead up to 18 points as they cruised to their first 20-win season since 2005-06. Not only did Laue get a bucket, but even Norwegian Torgrim Sommerfeldt knocked down his first career points after missing a season and a half thanks to knee injuries.
The crowd was far from capacity with the last-place Golden Griffins coming to town, but those who attended still had a high level of energy, especially during the Jasper band's rendition of "The Chicken Dance." And more importantly, the loud student section helped energize the Jaspers for a 14-1 run early in the second half, which effectively put the game out of reach for Canisius. (The Golden Griffins never got back within single digits.)
Manhattan came out of the gate a little slow, trailing 11-9 in the early going. But then Donovan Kates, who ended up finishing with a career-high 18 points, drained a three-pointer from the corner, and Manhattan never relinquished that lead. Canisius closed back within three, but Emmy Andujar knocked down a trey on the Jaspers' final possession of the first half to take a 42-36 lead into intermission.
Manhattan came out hot in the second half and led by as many as 24 points before Steve Masiello started to clear the bench.
George Beamon wound up finishing with 28 points, and Rhamel Brown went for 13 points, six rebounds, and three blocks, setting a new single-season blocks record for the Manhattan Jaspers. Beamon is now averaging 26 points per game against Canisius in the last two seasons. Eight Manhattan bench players saw playing time and combined for 21 bench points.
The Jaspers are now tied with USC Upstate of the Atlantic Sun for the biggest turnaround in NCAA Division I this season. The Spartans, who are currently 19-11, won just five games last year, and Manhattan finished just 6-25 a season ago.
Thanks to this win and Loyola's loss to Rider, Manhattan's game with Jimmy Patsos' club will be for the No. 2 seed in the MAAC Tournament. With Fairfield's loss to Iona, the loser can still grab the No. 3 seed in the conference tourney if the Stags also lost to Rider on Sunday afternoon. But with a Fairfield win, the loser will end up in fourth place.