Late Surge Tops Pioneers

The men’s basketball team split its two New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) matchups this week by defeating William Paterson University at home and coming up short on the road against Rutgers University-Newark. The Lions’ record stands at 11-9 overall and 4-4 in conference games.

On Jan. 24, the College edged visiting William Paterson University 56-53 in an up-and-down game for both teams. Neither team started off strong, with the first basket coming over two minutes into the game.

The Lions then caught fire, going on a 17-3 scoring streak to give them a 30-26 lead going into halftime.

In the second half, the Lions pushed their lead to 10 points, the largest lead of the game.

With the score at 45-35, the Pioneers went on a blistering 15-4 run of their own. Capped by a three-point shot by junior guard Da-Shawn Dwight, the run gave the Pioneers a one-point lead with 6:37 remaining.

Dwight had a game-high 19 points and was the only Pioneer to score in double digits.

The Lions fought back to regain a lead 54-50 lead with 19 seconds remaining in the game.

After a Pioneers three-pointer, freshman guard Jay Frank hit two clutch free throws to put the Lions up by three. The game was sealed when Pioneers senior forward Luis Martinez missed a three-point attempt as time expired.

A key to victory for the Lions was solid defense. They held the Pioneers to just 32.8 percent shooting throughout the game.

“We switched up our defenses quite often during the game in an attempt to confuse Paterson,” head coach John Castaldo said. “It seemed to work and they were not shooting well.”

Junior forward Mark Aziz continued to pace the Lions in scoring with 16 points. Senior guard Brian Halligan contributed 11 points and seven rebounds, while junior guard Corey Gilmore finished with 10 points and five rebounds on the night.

The Lions forced 20 Pioneers turnovers while committing 18 of their own.

“The Paterson game was a good win for us,” Castaldo said. “Paterson was the preseason favorite to win the conference and was ranked as high as seventh nationally during the course of the season. We were picked ninth so it was a good win for our young team.”

The College dropped Saturday’s contest at Rutgers-Newark 76-52, denying Castaldo his 200th career coaching victory.

Despite matching the Scarlet Raiders in the first half, the Lions had no answer for the opposing team’s offensive onslaught during the second.

Rutgers-Newark mounted a game-breaking 28-9 run that put the game out of reach. During that run, senior guard Philippe Slater had 10 of his game-high 21 points.

The lead grew to as much as 27 points for the Scarlet Raiders, as they shot 54.4 percent from the field during the half.

Aziz once again led the Lions with 18 points and four rebounds. His performance was followed by Halligan’s 13 points and three steals. Frank was the third Lions player to reach double figures, scoring 10 points off the bench.

“We played hard and would have liked a win against Rutgers-Newark, but we got a huge win against William Paterson earlier in the week,” sophomore guard Jeff Molinelli said. “We just have to come out hard on Wednesday at Kean (University) and get another key conference victory.”

The Lions visit Kean University tonight at 8 p.m. and host Ramapo College at 3 p.m. on Saturday.