Game #9-074: Hofstra at Manhattan JaspersNovember 21, 2012 7:00 pm
BRONX, N.Y. - I was left with a travel dilemma again Wednesday. I wanted to write up the recap of the game I attended Tuesday, but didn't want to get caught in New York traffic on the busiest day of year heading to Manhattan College.
The answer, as it was the week before in Massachusetts: the public library, which should be open on a Wednesday. And, so, leaving almost right after school, I avoided major delays by making my way to Spuyten Duyvil branch
of the New York Public Library on 235th St. A new Mid-majority tradition for me, visiting local public libraries to write stories? We shall see.
I witnessed something you don't see much anymore in my parts, a playground full of kids playing basketball - younger, older, and in between. Manhattan College lies in the Riverside section of the Bronx, one of the most affluent parts of the city, and while it doesn't have the massive fanbase of some other teams we cover (like Butler or really any Missouri Valley team), they are loyal, and have been treated to successes that include a pair of NCAA Tournament wins in the last two decades (1995 and 2004).
But lately, the Jaspers struggled under Barry Rohrssen, collapsing all the way to 6-25 two years ago, which meant Rohrssen was shown the door, and young Steve Masiello, a former Manhattan assistant and Rick Pitino disciple (he played at Kentucky for him as well) was brought in.
It didn't take long, the Jaspers added 15 wins to that six last season, the biggest turnaround in Division I. The problem with success, though, of course, is expectations. With 82 percent of their scoring returning, including All-MAAC selection George Beamon, Manhattan stepped up their scheduling, marketing, and just about everything else it seems.
I arrived at ancient (in a good way) Draddy Gym, which still doubles as an indoor track facility, to notice that the ticket prices had been increased slightly. In the past, the side opposite the benches was always general admission, but when I went to sit, I was politely told by an usher (I didn't remember any of those last year, either) that my seat was elsewhere.
Ah, success. Even the meager concessions were forced to step up their game with the raised expectations of another possible MAAC title.
Of course, these things happen everywhere, it's not fair to single out Manhattan, but there might have been a little karma in Beamon going down with an ankle injury before the season. The Jaspers were blasted in their first two games without him, by Louisville (not so bad) and Harvard (a little disconcerting).
As I walked in, the woman behind me was asked if she was picking up tickets, to which she replied that she was Beamon's mom.
"How's he doing?," I asked.
"Much better. He's playing tonight, thank God."
Masiello is very energetic, but comes off a little bit arrogant to me. On a night where another former Kentucky player - Sean Woods - got into hot water for berating a player
at Morehead St., Masiello had a couple of similar bouts of yelling at both players and assistant coaches.
With Beamon back and the Jaspers clearly angry to be 0-2, their pressure made Hofstra call two early time outs, Beamon's steal and layup giving his team a 15-2 lead just 3:30 into the game.
But Hofstra - coming off a fairly miserable 10-22 season of their own that featured exactly one true road victory - slowly creeped back into the game with the combination of switching to a zone and wretched shooting from anyone not named Beamon. By halftime, Masiello was getting more and more frustrated as the Pride had closed to within 29-28.
Hofstra finally tied the game at 33 early in the second half, but Beamon answered with a near impossible three-pointer and was dropped to the floor by David Imes (who had just tied the game with a dunk at the other end). As seems to be the style these days, Beamon blew Imes a kiss while sitting on his rear end, and subsequently made it a four-point play.
It was interesting to see Beamon's leadership in this game, something I didn't witness last season. Now a senior, Beamon was always encouraging his teammates, especially when things got rough late in the first half. When his team needed a play, he made it. They'll need that going forward.
In the end, what finally put Hofstra (who never led) away was some contributions from the perimeter by Beamon's teammates. At one point in the second half, Beamon had 23 points while the other four Jaspers on the floor combined for a grand total of two. But leading 47-43, junior Michael Alvarado hit back-to-back superhoops and added a third soon after. Ryan McCoy decided to get in on the act, and Manhattan was headed to its first win of the season, much to Masiello's relief.
Hofstra was led by 22 points from Penn State transfer Taran Buie, who's an interesting story in his own right. Buie was heralded as the top rated recruit in Nittany Lions history, and was also the half-brother of former Penn State star Taron Battle. He actually moved near State College for his senior year of high school after he committed, but he rarely saw the court, playing in only 11 games because of off-the-court problems and suspensions.
After announcing he was transferring to Hofstra, he was arrested again before leaving Pennsylvania and had to sit the first two Pride games this season because of yet another two-game suspension. So surely, even by college basketball standards, he's used up most of his nine lives. It's easy to root against a kid like Buie, especially if you're a Penn State fan, I guess, but on this night, he was clearly Hofstra's best player.
But you hope a kid with that much talent has learned from his transgressions, and being new to our Mid-majority world, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. It's never good to have a prefix "troubled" following you around wherever you go.
With 45 seconds left and the competitive part of the game now over, Beamon and Buie left the game together. Masiello put his arm around Beamon, while Hofstra coach Mo Cassara did the same with Buie, only a little more awkwardly.
With the way the college basketball world works, it's unlikely that Beamon and Buie - being in different conferences - will cross paths again in their careers. The season is young, and what paths their seasons take are yet to be determined. Can Beamon lead Masiello and Manhattan back to the NCAA Tournament? Can Buie shed the slip-ups of his past and push Hofstra (with some possible help from injured UConn transfer Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, who hopes to be ready to play soon) to the turnaround that Manhattan did last season? The Pride already have one Red Line Upset over Marshall, and the Colonial is a little depleted with VCU's defection.
I guess that is our fun for the next few months - as much as people want to try to prognosticate it - we don't know the future. So we'll find out together.
Unless the Mayans were right, of course.
As Beamon's family bounced around waiting for George to emerge from the locker room, I ended my trip to the Bronx as it began, kids trying to play basketball. The young granddaughters of long-time Manhattan Athletic Director Bob Byrnes were begging him to let them play on the main Draddy Gym court. Reluctantly, as grandfathers often do, he relented, but alas, mom said it was too late, it was time to go.
It was for me as well.
at MANHATTAN 67, HOFSTRA 56
HOFSTRA 3-3 (0-0) -- S. Mejia 1-2 2-6 4; J. Hall 5-10 2-4 12; T. Buie 5-13 10-13 22; M. Kone 0-2 0-0 0; S. Stokes 2-10 0-2 4; K. Washington 0-1 0-0 0; D. Imes 3-8 0-0 6; J. Allen 1-1 1-4 3; D. Anglin 2-2 0-0 5; M. Grogan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-49 15-29 56.
MANHATTAN 1-2 (0-0) -- G. Beamon 10-15 7-10 29; M. Alvarado 4-10 1-3 12; R. Stores 1-7 0-0 3; R. McCoy 1-7 0-0 3; R. Brown 7-7 1-3 15; R. Colonette 1-1 0-0 2; D. Kates 0-1 0-0 0; E. Andujar 1-2 1-2 3; C. Jones 0-4 0-0 0; M. Koita 0-0 0-0 0; S. Richards 0-1 0-0 0; M. Jackson Jr. 0-0 0-0 0; A. Lacey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-55 10-18 67.
Three-point goals: HOFS 3-12 (S. Mejia 0-1; D. Imes 0-1; T. Buie 2-5; S. Stokes 0-4; D. Anglin 1-1), MAN 7-28 (G. Beamon 2-5; M. Alvarado 3-6; E. Andujar 0-1; D. Kates 0-1; R. McCoy 1-5; R. Stores 1-5; C. Jones 0-4; S. Richards 0-1); Rebounds: HOFS 33 (J. Hall 10), MAN 38 (R. Brown 8); Assists: HOFS 10 (S. Mejia 4), MAN 17 (R. Stores 5); Total Fouls -- HOFS 22, MAN 24; Fouled Out: HOFS-None; MAN-E. Andujar.
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