Lions ready to rebound in conference games

Before dropping a non-conference game to Brooklyn College 76-60 on Monday, the men’s basketball team played a trio of New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) games. The Lions sport an overall record of 5-9 and are 1-3 in conference play.

“As of right now, we have underachieved,” sophomore guard Jay Frank said. “But we are able to start fresh because we have (most) of our conference games left, which are the most significant games of the year, so we’ll see how the rest of the year goes.”

Since nine of the remaining 10 games are conference games, the Lions’ NJAC fate remains undecided.

Although four out of five of the College’s starters netted double digits in Monday’s game, Brooklyn’s sophomore forward Richard Jean-Baptiste led Brooklyn to victory with 26 total points.

Wednesday’s 65-63 win at Kean University was the Lions’ first NJAC victory of the season and the first conference win for first-year head coach Matt Hunter.

“Coach Hunter really does a great job of preparing us in practice,” sophomore guard Steve Feinberg said. “We know exactly what we are up against and what to expect.”

In a game that saw 10 lead changes and four ties, the Lions found themselves down by as many as nine in the first half. Junior guard Jeff Molinelli led the charge late in the first half with back-to-back three pointers, sending the Lions into halftime down 31-29.

“We did not play as well as we should have in the first half,” Feinberg said. “There were a lot of turnovers and the game just was not flowing for us.”

A 15-2 run in the second half put the Lions in control of the game. The Cougars were able to work their way back into the game, trailing by only four points with 39 seconds remaining, but key free throws by senior forward Mark Aziz secured the Lions’ victory.

Aziz finished the game with 21 points and seven rebounds, going 5-of-8 shooting from the floor.

On Saturday, the Lions were dealt their third conference loss of the season, falling to Richard Stockton College 75-55.

“We have done a good job all year of taking care of the ball and playing smart,” Hunter said. “This game we just did a poor job with defensive rebounding and taking care of the basketball. Some of the rebounds they earned were due to their athleticism.”

Using a 1-2-2 full court press after made baskets the Ospreys gained the edge in turnovers, 24-11. Capitalizing off of the turnovers, the Ospreys were able to fire 12 more shots during the game than the Lions.

Starting the game with a 10-0 run, the Ospreys held the Lions scoreless until 14:38 left in the first half. The Lions pulled within five, but a 53 percent first-half shooting performance by the Ospreys carried them to a 38-21 lead at halftime.

The Lions could not mount a comeback during the second half, with the Ospreys’ lead never falling below double digits.

Frank and senior guard Jeff Warner led the Lions in scoring with 12 points each. Senior guard Mario Lancioni paced the Ospreys with 22 points.

“It was one off game where nothing seemed to go right,” Hunter said. “Now we will start getting prepared for our next game and hopefully we can correct the things we did wrong today.”

On Jan. 12, the Lions were edged 70-63 in another NJAC contest by visiting Montclair State University.

Molinelli’s nine first-half points, including another pair of three-point shots, brought the Lions to within two points at halftime. Midway through the second half, the Lions were able to tie the game at 40, but the Red Hawks used a 10-0 run to jump out in front 50-40.

Grinding it out down the stretch, the Lions pulled to within five points with 1:44 remaining. The teams went back and forth with free throws until the Lions failed to score with 37 seconds remaining.

During Winter break the Lions played a host of non-conference games. They defeated Cabrini College, 83-62, St. Mary’s College, 79-63, and Buffalo State College, 80-68. The College dropped five other tightly contested games in that span, including a 71-67 overtime loss to Albright College and an 84-77 double-overtime loss to Buena Vista University.

The Lions play another NJAC game tonight at Rowan University at 8 p.m.