After a week as difficult as this one, the College is certainly happy to put it behind them and look ahead. The Lions dropped all three of the games they played, two of them in a blowout and one of them at the buzzer, to Richard Stockton College, Ramapo College and Princeton University.
The week started off very slowly against Richard Stockton as the Lions (5-15, 3-10) were completely shut down on offense, shooting only 28 percent from the field and being whipped in a 58-38 loss. The team did have a one-point lead with the first half winding down, but fell victim to a 9-0 Osprey run. After the half, the College only managed seven field goals.
“We just came out flat, shots were not falling and that led to easy transition points for Stockton,” senior guard Matt Rista said. “Frustration emerged on the offensive end and we just never really got things going.”
In addition to shooting 52 percent from the field, Richard Stockton outrebounded the Lions by a 42-24 margin. The College only hit three of 10 free throws as well.
“We just struggled overall shooting the basketball and it continued from the free throw line as well,” junior forward Alex Fox said. “We just need to focus more from the line and knock them down.”
There weren’t too many great performances for the Lions, but senior guard William Lester tallied nine points on three three-pointers. Sophomore guard Jayson Johnson also had nine points.
If that wasn’t tough enough to stomach, the game against No. 11 Ramapo came down to a final shot that bounced in and out, which would have won it for the Lions. Rista’s buzzer beater prayer missed as time expired. leaving the Lions with a 73-72 loss.
“It was a tough loss, but it’s important that we remain focused on the primary goal, which is a playoff berth and an NJAC championship,” Rista said. “Everything felt great when the ball left my hand. It was a good look and I need to remain confident and knock shots like that down when they present themselves.”
The College got off to a much better start shooting and eventually even had a double digit lead, which dropped to 40-34 at the end of the first half. This was mainly due to stellar plays by Johnson, who had 15 of his 24 points in the first half.
“Against Ramapo, I think we had a sense of urgency now that we’re in the home stretch of our season,” Fox said. “We’re only two games out of the playoffs and we know we need to get some wins if we’re going to make a run.”
However, the Roadrunners wasted no time getting back in the game, hitting two threes at the half and then converting on a layup to take a 42-40 lead. The Lions fought tooth and nail to keep pace with Ramapo, but the final missed shot did them in.
Despite 21 turnovers, Ramapo was still able to come out on top. Part of this is because in the second half, they shot 57 percent while holding the College to just 27 percent shooting. Junior forward Alex Fox had 15 points and three rebounds, while Rista chipped in with 12 points and five rebounds.
It’s always exhausting to play a back-to-back game, but when it’s against a Division I school, it’s especially excruciating. After the emotionally draining loss to Ramapo, the Lions traveled to Princeton and came out flat, losing by a margin of 71-33.
“Princeton was a tough one,” Rista said. “We did not compete and play like we normally do, which led to an embarrassing effort on both the defensive and offensive end.”
Being kept off the glass and completely muzzled offensively, the College never really stood a chance. They shot 23 percent from the field, missed all 14 of their three-point attempts, and were outrebounded by a margin of 60-30.
The Tigers did an especially good job against the starting lineup for the Lions, which combined for a mere nine points. Sophomore guards Emmanuel Matlock and Ryan Keegan led them with 10 points apiece.
Being outmatched by the bigger school, the Lions were unable to really get anything going in a difficult matchup with the Tigers.
“Princeton is a big and athletic team and were switching on all screens, which made it difficult to get our shots off,” Fox said. “Inside we were unable to finish around their big guys.”
This season continues to be a rough one for the Lions, as they’re still tyring to string together some wins. That quest resumes Wednesday, Jan. 30, against Rutgers-Camden University.
Despite the losses, Rista believes that the team still has the ability to salvage the season.
“I believe that we just need to remain confident and keep our eyes on the primary goal,” Rista said. “We have to continue to work and somehow put together a slew of wins in order to gain some momentum and make a run for a playoff spot.”