Hampton drew first blood in this First Four matchup and led throughout the game to top Manhattan, 74-64. The Pirates started fast and took advantage of the poor shooting by the Jaspers. Both teams came out firing up shots in a fast paced game that involved many shots coming early in the shot clock, some not even 10 seconds into the possession.
Manhattan was favored in this matchup after looking good in the MAAC championship game against Iona, but it did not show up with the same intensity today as it did last week. The two top scorers for Manhattan, Emmy Andujar and Ashton Pankey were held to only 35-percent shooting. The Jaspers 3-point shooter Shaun Richards sank only 4 of the 13 treys that he threw up. Pankey also got into foul trouble as he reached his fourth foul with 12:21 left in the game.
It was a gritty effort by Hampton to hold the lead and fight off every run that the Jaspers made. Hampton came to play in this one and give them credit. The shooting wasn’t great, but they continued to drive the lane and get a chance at the free throw line. The Pirates did not shoot well from the line either, but they were able to make the ones that mattered and close the game in the last minutes to get their average back to 50 percent. The prize for winning this First Four game though? John Calipari and the Wildcats.
Even though Hampton was able to lead throughout, the game was never out of hand. Manhattan was able to rally from down 12 to bring it to a one-possession game. Hampton had stretched the lead back to double digits late in the game, but Manhattan answered right back and brought it back to a three-point game. With the game’s outcome in question, senior forward Emmanuel Okoroba, who had been held quiet all night, was able to make back-to-back inside shots to put the lead out of hand of the Jaspers. He only scored 6 points, but this span of two possessions sealed the game for the Pirates.
Quinton Chievous was able to assert himself down low in this one tonight. More than once he was able to catch the ball on the post and turn and find the bucket and finish with a powerful jam. He showed hustle and determination as he ran up and down the floor while taking hard hits and getting banged up. He was hurt with 3 minutes to go and would not return. The transfer from Tennessee finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds, shooting 58 percent from the field.
Strange, Yet True
Hampton was the sixth-place team in the MEAC after the regular season. Manhattan clearly had the better record as Hampton carried a sub .500 record into the game tonight, but luckily for Hampton, it doesn’t matter what has happened up to now, only what you do with your next game. Hampton is just the seventh team to win a tournament game with a record under .500 since 2002.
Hampton plays the No.1 overall seed in Kentucky on Friday.
Manhattan’s season comes to a close after a night where the shots were just not falling.