Early forecasts, it seems, are not always surefire predictions of what is yet to come. The College’s men’s basketball team learned this lesson the hard way this past week, as they fell to Rowan University by a final score of 74-52 after a hotly contested first half, and had their second game postponed in fear of a snowstorm that left a much smaller impact than originally anticipated.
The Lions (5-18, 3-13) battled back and forth with the playoff-bound Profs in the opening half of the game, despite some less-than-ideal circumstances.
“(The game) was a tough one, especially knowing our playoff hopes had already been eliminated,” said junior guard Matthew Rista, who led the team with 16 points, the only Lion to score in double figures. “We played a tough first half.”
That they did, as the Lions managed to put up 11 unanswered points to close out the half in order to take a 37-36 lead heading into the break. The team managed to stay ahead of the Profs by living from beyond the arc, hitting six of their nine three-pointers in the half, and by taking full advantage of opportunities at the free-throw line, where the team shot a blistering 11 of 12.
Unfortunately, just as sometimes storms are not quite so strong as they appear, the Lions could not maintain their lead in the second half.
“(We) just struggled shooting the ball in the second half,” Rista said.
Those struggles were what ultimately hurt the Lions, who were outscored 38-15 in the second half, after hitting only five of their 29 second half attempts. The College’s magic touches in the first half from three and the charity stripe faded, as they went two for 12 from three-point land and missed four of their seven free throws.
The Lions’ struggles in the painted area continued, as they were outrebounded 46-32, and outscored in the paint by a sum total of 38-6. Yet it was again a tale of two halves, as the College kept the rebounding numbers close, 18-15 in favor of Rowan, in the first half before faltering in the second.
Sophomore guard Emmanuel Matlock led the team with three assists to go along with seven points, while junior forward Joe Kane attacked the glass most often for the Lions, finishing with six rebounds.
With their playoff dreams for this season over, the Lions are already looking forward to what is yet to come.
“We are just trying to improve and get better every day in preparation for next season,” Rista said.
The College’s second game of the week was postponed due to the reports of a massive blizzard, moving the Lions’ home finale to Monday, Feb. 11. The team fell short to New Jersey City University by a score of 65-53.
The game was on senior night, and lone senior guard William Lester was able to knock down a contested three-pointer, a feel-good moment for his last home game.
“Billy’s been the heart and soul of the team this year,” freshman forward Mitch Miller said. “He may not have been the guy who got significant minutes, but he’s our hardest worker and he’s going to be missed next year.”
The team will play its final game of the season on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 8 p.m. on the road at Montclair State University.
Despite no longer being in the playoff picture, the players have something important to play for.
“We’re looking to come out strong and win this last game,” Rista said.
Now that’s a prediction the Lions will surely do their best to meet dead-on.