The Battle of the Bronx: One of College Basketball’s Best Rivalries

Photo courtesy of Manhattan College Athletics.

By David Cordova

Every year, in the world of college basketball, there are some rivalry games that pique the interest of the public and get the fans very excited. There’s one big rivalry that resides in The Bronx.

That rivalry game is between Manhattan College and Fordham University, two schools in the same borough that are just four miles apart from each other. The rivalry game last night was in its 111th year of inception, dating back to the year, 1907. Coming into last night’s game, the Jaspers led the series, 57-53.

“The way I talk to our guys, every game is an important game,” said Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer, “I mean in college basketball, you only get like 31. This isn’t the NBA, where you’re playing 82 games, that’s just called the regular season. You only get 31, so every game is really important. With that being said, here locally, when you talk about the alums of Manhattan, the alums of Fordham, this game really means something. So anytime there is a rivalry game, where fans and students really care about the result, it’s important.”

Manhattan’s Pauly Paulicap and Fordham’s Jesse Bunting go up for the tip to get the ball. (Photo of Manhattan College Athletics)

“I thought it was a very significant Battle of the Bronx, I thought it represented both colleges very well. I thought our administration did an unbelievable job of making this a great environment for college basketball, for the Battle of the Bronx,” said Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello.

This year’s game took place on the hallowed grounds of Draddy Gymnasium, Manhattan’s home court, which brought out over 2,000 spectators, the vast majority of which were alumni and fans of the Jaspers. Their famed fan section, the 6th Borough, was as raucous as ever.

When asked about how he feels about the Battle of the Bronx being a yearly thing, Masiello replied, “You know, this is a fun college. Manhattan’s fun. We work with great people, every game is a party, that’s our thing. We want to have a lot of fun. Every time we have meetings, we plan to have fun with our student body, and they come out and they support, and so, is this a big game? Yes, this is a big game.”

Manhattan’s Nehemiah Mack shoots a jumper. (Photo courtesy of Manhattan College Athletics)

This season’s game became interesting as both teams had mainly younger players, but were very scrappy and hard-working, and put up a great fight until the very end. Coming into the game, Fordham had a very successful start to the season, as they were 5-1. Manhattan, on the other hand, had struggled with a 2-4 record. But when they stepped on the frontline, their record was 0-0.

The game started out with a back-and-forth battle, until Fordham took control of the game behind redshirt junior guard Antwone Portley, as the Rams led 18-8 with 11:18 to go in the first half. However, Manhattan wasn’t that far behind, as the Jaspers kept feeding the ball inside to freshman forward Warren Williams throughout multiple stages of the game. It became a neck-and-neck battle throughout the half, then the Jaspers would go into halftime with a two-point lead, 27-25.

From the beginning of the second half, the pace picked up as the Rams took over, leading by six, 35-29, after an alley-oop dunk by junior forward Chuba Ohams. However, Manhattan junior forward Pauly Paulicap and sophomore forward Ebube Ebube kept the Jaspers in the game with free throws and made layups.

Fordham’s Antwone Portley shoots over the outstretched hands of Manhattan’s Samir Stewart. (Photo courtesy of Manhattan College Athletics)

Throughout the final few minutes, free throws by Paulicap continued to keep the game within reach for the Jaspers. But then, with 25.3 seconds to go, he would make a layup to bring the Jaspers ahead by one, 56-55. However, the last play would be decided in favor of the Fordham Rams, as freshman guard Nick Honor would go through the lane and hit a floater with 2.6 seconds left to help his team take the lead, 57-56, which would seal the deal. Sophomore guard Nehemiah Mack would shoot a half-court shot that wouldn’t hit the net, but went over the backboard, as the Rams would go on to win their sixth game of the season and their 54th game in this rivalry.

The game was filled with a lot of energy and excitement from the raucous crowd. When asked about the sellout crowd, Paulicap added: “Felt pretty good, I would say. I just love the vibe, I love the energy, I feed off of the crowd, honestly.”

With this year’s game now over, all that is left for the two teams is to continue on to a great season (Fordham) and to continue to get better (Manhattan). Next year’s game at Rose Hill Gym will be just as good, if not better.

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