Lions Losing Grip on Playoffs

The men’s basketball team suffered losses this week at the hands of Kean University and Ramapo College. Both contests were New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) games, dropping the Lions’ record to 11-11 overall and 4-6 in the conference.

With only three regular season games remaining, all of which are against conference teams, the Lions will have to win at least two if they want to participate in the NJAC playoffs.

“You never know who is going to make it into the playoffs and who is not,” senior guard Brian Halligan said. “We are going to win as many of these upcoming games as we can to try and get in.”

Wednesday’s away game against the Kean Cougars resulted in a 75-57 loss for the Lions. As a result, both teams were tied for the third and final playoff slot in the NJAC South Division.

Midway through the first half, the Cougars pulled away with a 12-0 run to give them a 10-point lead.

Rallying behind junior guard Drew Rosenfeld and freshman guard Jay Frank, the Lions responded with a 13-3 spurt of their own. Rosenfeld and Frank each had five points during the run that saw the Cougars’ lead cut to two points. Late in the half, Kean netted a pair of free throws to close the half with a 29-25 lead.

During the second half, the Cougars extended their lead to 11 points with just under 10 minutes remaining.

The Lions managed to trim the lead to just four points on two occasions, but the Cougars sealed the game with a 21-7 run.

“We did not shoot well throughout the game,” sophomore guard Jeff Molinelli said. “Twice we got within four points but no one could step up and get us over that hill.”

The Lions shot only 28.6 percent from the floor on 56 shot attempts, while the Cougars made 49.2 percent of their attempts.

Frank and Rosenfeld came off the bench and led the way in scoring for the Lions. Frank scored 15 points and was perfect from the free throw line (8-for-8), while Rosenfeld notched 13 points and two steals.

The Lions also fell 74-55 to NJAC North Division leader Ramapo at home on Saturday.

Both teams seemed evenly matched early in the first half. With the score tied at 14, junior forward Assad Shaakir gave the Roadrunners the momentum with a put-back dunk. After that, the pace of the game increased in favor of the Roadrunners as they led 32-23 at halftime.

“They are such an athletic and fast team that we tried to keep the game at a slower pace,” Halligan said. “But after the game began to pick up, we started to make more mistakes and the game got a little out of control.”

Poor shooting, especially from behind the three-point line (10 percent), kept the Lions from bringing the lead down to less than 10 points. The Lions offense was also disrupted by Ramapo’s double-teaming after the ball crossed half court.

After trailing by as many as 16 points, the College cut the lead to 11 after a Ramapo technical foul. The Roadrunners sank two straight baskets to suppress any Lions comeback.

Again, the Lions shot poorly from the field (34.5 percent) while converting only six of their 26 three-point attempts.

“You can either live by the three or die by the three,” junior forward Mark Aziz said. “And we died by the three. We just could not seem to make our shots and they continued to play well.”

Aziz led the Lions in scoring with 16 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Four Ramapo players reached double-digits, including sophomore forward Tim Wesley’s 19-point, 10-rebound performance.

“You are never out of the playoffs until the last game,” Aziz said. “We have a few games left and hopefully we get a few wins to help us make it into the tournament.”

The Lions play a home conference game tonight against Richard Stockton College at 8 p.m. and another NJAC game against Rowan University on Saturday.