Manhattan wins 2014 MAAC basketball tournament: Jaspers return to NCAA Tournament for 1st time since 2004

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaspers are going dancing.

The Manhattan Jaspers earned their first NCAA Tournament berth in a decade, staving off a late comeback for a 71-68 win over the Iona Gaels in the MAAC championship game Monday.

The Jaspers will make their seventh NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2004, when they advanced to the round of 32 as a No. 12 seed with a win over fifth-seeded Florida. In the round of 32 that year, the Jaspers played close with No. 4 Wake Forest, led by freshman Chris Paul, but ultimately lost 84-80.

It's the first NCAA Tournament berth for third-year Manhattan coach Steve Masiello, a former assistant under Rick Pitino at Louisville.

Manhattan held a 64-54 lead with 6:19 to play, but Iona had one major push left in it. The Gaels finally pulled within a single shot on a drive to the basket by A.J. English. After Manhattan's Shane Richards hit a pair of free throws, English again brought the game to two points at 70-68 with 17 seconds on an uncontested drive and dunk, Masiello having clearly instructed his team not to foul.

Manhattan's Donovan Kates made his first free throw with about 16 seconds remaining, but he missed the second, and Iona had a final shot to tie the game. As time was expiring, Iona's David Laury found himself with the ball. The 6'9 junior had only taken one other three in his career (he missed it), and his attempt from the right wing hit the front of the rim as time ran out.

George Beamon led the Jaspers with 16 points and eight rebounds.

Manhattan is ranked No. 69 in KenPom.com's team ratings.

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