The men’s basketball team’s playoff chances took a big hit this week as he team dropped two New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) games to Kean University (9-14) and Richard Stockton College (16-6).
Currently owning fourth place in the NJAC South Division, the College will need to catch Kean, which is two games ahead in the loss column, to earn a playoff berth.
“We still have hope that we can make the playoffs,” head coach Matt Hunter said. “We need to win out in order to have a shot, but we are going to throw all we have into these next two games.”
The Lions’ overall record now stands at 6-17 while they sport a 2-9 conference mark.
Wednesday’s 66-60 home loss to the Cougars greatly affected the Lions’ playoff chances. Trailing the Cougars in the standings, the Lions would have tied Kean for third in the division if the outcome had gone their way. Instead, the Lions now trail Kean by two games with just two remaining on the schedule.
Midway through the second half, the score was locked at 37. The Cougars would not relinquish the lead after a three-point play by freshman forward Akinwande Oshodi, a jumper by junior forward Sean Carter and a layup by freshman guard Keith Williams, giving them the 44-37 lead.
“We didn’t convert when we needed to,” sophomore guard Jay Frank said. “The loss was on us all the way.”
With one minute left, the Lions rallied to within four points and began to foul. The Cougars hit 10-of-14 free throws in the last minute to seal the game.
Despite out-rebounding the Cougars 41-28, the Lions were hurt by their turnovers and their poor shooting from the field. The Cougars held the edge in turnovers, 19-11, while outshooting the Lions 44.2 percent to 35.7 percent throughout the game.
The first half of the game resulted in a 26-26 stalemate going into halftime. Both teams held each other to less than 38 percent shooting in the half and neither led by more than four points.
The Lions’ balanced scoring attack had four players score in double digits. Senior guard Jeff Warner and junior guard Jeff Molinelli led their team with 12 points each. Co-captain seniors forward Mark Aziz and guard Corey Gilmore tallied 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Williams paced the Cougars with a game-high 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while Oshodi contributed 18 points, six rebounds and two blocks in the winning effort.
Visiting Richard Stockton College on Saturday, the Lions were dealt their second loss of the week, 83-72, by the first-place Ospreys.
Six minutes into the game, with the score 12-11 in favor of the Lions, the home team mounted a game-defining 14-point run from which the Lions never recovered. During that span the Lions committed seven turnovers while the Ospreys capitalized on their opportunities, taking a 47-37 lead into halftime.
Defense was key for the Ospreys as they grabbed 14 steals, blocked eight shots and forced the Lions to commit 26 turnovers.
A jumper by Gilmore five minutes into the second half brought the Lions to within six points. That was the closest they would get to the Ospreys, who extended their lead to as much as 17 with two minutes remaining.
Once again, the Lions distributed the scoring load with five players tallying double digits. They were led by sophomore guard Aaron Syvertsen’s career-high 13-point performance. Aziz netted 12 points and grabbed six rebounds while Warner and Molinelli each scored 11 points. Frank contributed 10 points in the contest.
Junior forward Jerome Hubbard was the high scorer for the Ospreys, converting 6-of-11 shots en route to a 20-point performance.
The Lions’ last regular-season home game of the year is tonight against Rowan University at 8 p.m. in Packer Hall. Senior players Aziz, Gilmore and Warner will be honored before tip-off.