WILKES-BARRE — Pat Scanlon could only stare at the ground, hands interlocked behind his head.
Manhattanville’s young coach didn’t need to look to know the result as Chris DeRojas caught another pass all alone on the perimeter.
Like the majority of Wilkes’ shots on Tuesday, this one fell with ease.
DeRojas racked up a career-best 26 points for the second straight game, Wilkes shot .654 from the floor and the Colonels emphatically snapped a four-game home losing streak by dismantling Manhattanville 99-72 at the Marts Center.
The 99 points were a season-best for the Colonels (8-7, 3-1 Freedom Conference) and the most in a game since they dropped 100 on Marywood last January.
This outburst came against a team that came into the night undefeated in conference play and looking to make an impact in its first season in the league after jumping from the Skyline Conference.
For Wilkes, it was an unexpected but welcome result, even after a road win over Arcadia on Saturday. In trying to explain how his Colonels pulled off a 27-point win, coach Jerry Rickrode couldn’t help but break into laughter.
“It’s, uh, it’s hard to explain,” Rickrode said with what was likely one of the biggest grins of the season. “I will say that we went to Arcadia Saturday and we had a good second half. Seemed like things started to click a little bit. And then it carried over today.
“Maybe we’re starting to know each other a little bit better. It looks like guys are starting to find guys in the spots where they can score.”
Regardless of the explanation, it was arguably the most impressive effort of the year for the Colonels – given the opponent – and one that players and coaches alike are hoping to build on.
Of course, it helps when a freshman like DeRojas catches fire like he has the last two games. The rookie knocked down six three-pointers and was 6-of-8 from beyond the arc at one point before finishing 6-of-10.
“My shot’s been feeling good and my teammates have been finding me in rhythm,” DeRojas said.
DeRojas was far from the only Colonel with a hot hand, as three others – Matt Gould (15), Steve Kline (14) and Tom Kresge (13) – finished in double figures in the game.
With 6:30 left to play, Wilkes had already tied its previous season-high scoring mark of 90 on Anthony Gabriel’s two-hand slam that made it 90-58. The Manhattanville reserves outscored the Wilkes reserves over the final few minutes for a more respectable final score.
More than the offensive output, Rickrode was pleased with his team’s aggressive defense that prevented the Valiants (11-5, 3-1) from getting into their usual sets and forced them into settling for tougher shots from the outside.
The embarrassment started early for the Valiants, whose collective body language seemed to concede the game after the first seven minutes as Wilkes streaked out to a 20-4 lead.
What the Colonels wanted, the Colonels took from a disinterested Manhattanville side, working inside for open lay-ups and easy scores.
When Kresge and Kline weren’t free, Wilkes simply kicked it out to DeRojas, who mystifyingly found himself unguarded for three after three.
It added up to a .677 team shooting effort and 52 points after 20 minutes – more points than the Colonels had scored in four of their 14 games total. DeRojas had 16 and Kresge scored 10 in the first-half shellacking.
Wilkes (1-15, 0-4) put together its best effort in Freedom Conference play this season but fell short against visiting Manhattanville, 69-64.
The Valiants rallied from seven down in the final nine minutes despite 22 points from Wilkes senior Katie Cappelloni.