Coming off of a game with a poor offensive showing against Yale, the Jaspers bounced back with an 80-62 victory over Niagara to start MAAC play on Friday night. With the win, the team improved to 3-4 on the season.
This was the fourth time in five seasons and the fifth in John Olenowski’s seven years as head coach that the Jaspers won their conference opener.
“It was a big goal of ours,” Olenowski said of starting conference play with a win. “It’s always important to get that win.”
Niagara notched an early 5-2 advantage but a jumper by Kayla Grimme and a Taylor Williams three-pointer put the Jaspers on top 7-5. The Purple Eagles took the lead back briefly until Williams responded with another three-pointer. The Jaspers regained the lead and never looked back.
“It was really good to start conference play with a win,” Shayna Ericksen said. “We set the tone for the year and the rest of MAAC play.”
Williams and Crystal Ross helped lead the Jaspers with 17 and 14 points respectively. Ross also had a 6-for-6 shooting night, to go along with eight rebounds. She became the first Jasper to go perfect from the field since Caitlin Flood went 10-for-10 against Siena on Jan. 11, 2008.
Grimme notched 10 points, seven boards and six blocks. Ericksen had 10 points and six rebounds. Blake Underhill tallied seven points and four assists while Amani Tatum put up six points, four rebounds, five assists and had four steals. Freshman Courtney Hagaman notched her first career points in the game.
The Jaspers shot 51.6 percent from the field, compared to 20.8 percent in their game against Yale. They went 35.7 percent from long range and 69.2 percent at the free throw line.
“We had a lot of points in transition,” Olenowski said of the team’s improved offense. “We controlled the ball better and had more balanced scoring.”
Williams said that the team’s 1-3-1 defense is key and Ericksen noted how the team’s shooting overall has gotten better.
The Jaspers had a dominant victory over Brown 80-56 on Sunday Nov. 29. Williams led the team with 25 points, updating her season average to 8.8 points per game. Tatum is leading the scoring for Manhattan with 13 points and 2.4 steals per outing.
Nyasha Irizarry averages 9.5 points per game. Grimme tallies 7.6 points and a league-leading 10 rebounds per outing. She also ranks third nationally with 3.8 blocks per game. Underhill notches a team-high 3.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game.
Olenowski noted how the defense has improved through the season so far compared to last year and that the team has great depth. He was pleased with the team’s offensive weapons that were shown against Niagara and said that it was a key aspect moving forward.
“We’ve improved a lot,” Williams said, “and now we are tied in the conference.”
With the minutes winding down in the game against Niagara, Coach Olenowski substituted all five players on the court with players on the bench, which got every player into the game during the night.
“It really shows our depth,” Ericksen said. “Our bench picks us up.”
Manhattan is 3-0 this season when scoring 80 points or more, previously winning over Brown and an 85-78 victory against Fairleigh Dickinson on Nov. 14.
“We need to keep energy throughout,” Ericksen said of key aspects to take from Friday’s game. “We need to be strong all four quarters like we did tonight.”