With a blossoming offensive threat, the men’s basketball team knocked off two more conference opponents, including a 76-58 win over Kean University on Saturday and a 65-42 win against Richard Stockton College last Wednesday.
With a developing offensive punch, it appears the men’s basketball team has found the kind of balanced scoring to compliment its already-established defensive presence, which ranked third in the country as of Jan. 22.
Despite missing two key players (senior captain Bobby Davison and sophomore forward Mark Aziz have been out the last three games due to injury), the Lions are cruising and riding on a three-game win streak.
The Cougars of Kean had no answer for senior forward Scott Findlay, who had his way in the paint. Findlay fought through double teams and uncalled fouls on his way to scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. It was senior guard Jason Stallworth, though, who made the plays when it mattered most.
Halfway through the second half, the Cougars cut the Lions’ lead to 12, but Stallworth quickly put a stop to the momentum shift, scoring the Lions’ next eight points. First he soared to the basket, drew contact and somehow managed to make good on the tough layup. Then, after making a short jumper on the next possession, he got a steal and converted on a three-point play, going coast to coast.
“There are times when they go on a run and you kind of sense the offensive shift,” Stallworth said. “I like to be the guy who takes the big shots and has the ball at the end of the game.”
Senior guard Brian Halligan provided a lift off the bench with 14 points, including three three-pointers and one dazzling play that brought a gasp from the crowd.
Halligan poked the ball away from a Cougar guard and managed to convert an off-balance underhand floater while being fouled in the lane. That put the Lions up 53-39.
In the first half, Stallworth also made the highlight reel. In a tremendous play, he jumped toward the basket looking for his own shot, but then hung in the air long enough to find senior forward David Boudwin, who was able to just barely beat the shot clock and give the College an early 10-point advantage.
The Lions, who have shot the ball particularly well of late, were money from downtown, going nine for 12 in the game. Senior forward Matt Diamond knocked down three treys, while senior forward Dan DeSerio added two. Diamond finished with 13 points and seven rebounds while DeSerio chipped in eight points.
“It was a good team effort,” Findlay said. “Everyone has stepped up in scoring and that’s what sparked our three-game win streak.”
With a season-high 76 points, it was easy to overlook the defensive effort of this team. Sophomore guard Corey Gilmore, who has started the past three games, has made a clear difference. “Us inserting Corey in the starting lineup to go along with Stallworth may take away a little bit offensively, but it’s given us a great defensive spark to start the game,” head coach John Castaldo said.
Earlier in the week, the Lions took care of business, defeating Stockton 65-42. Once again, it was the defensive intensity and a balanced scoring attack that propelled the College to victory. Diamond finished with a team-high 17 points while Findlay put in 16 to go along with eight rebounds. Stallworth added 12 and DeSerio chipped in 11.
Battling the Lions’ tenacious defense and an off-shooting night, Stockton couldn’t buy a bucket, shooting 30 percent from the field, including 0-10 from beyond the arc.
“Corey really shut down a very good player for them,” Castaldo said. “They had four guys coming into the game averaging double figures and no one on their team recorded a double figure night.”
The Lions took a three-point lead into the locker room and never looked back. Stallworth scored five straight points to open the second half as the Lions stretched their lead to 14 after holding Stockton scoreless in the first six minutes.
The lead never slipped below 11 points as the Lions pulled away, leaving Stockton with a forgettable home loss.
The Lions will look to keep this momentum going as they travel to Camden to take on the University of Rutgers today for an 8 p.m. tip-off.