By Anthony Caruso
As the spring semester begins, the women’s basketball team remains in a difficult position after dropping two straight games. The Lions record is now 9-9 overall and 4-7 within the conference.
The team has shot just 36 of 125 from the field in their past two games.
“Every game from now on is very important to us to make the playoffs,” junior guard Angelica Esposito said. “We need to keep working hard in practice to improve everyday. When we are struggling with our shooting, it is hard to score, but if we keep running our offenses and are confident, we will be able to hit the open shots.”
On Wednesday, Jan. 21, the Lions lost their first game to a fellow conference member, the Rutgers-Camden Scarlet Raptors. The Lions did not have a single lead in the game.
The Lions had tied the game once before the Raptors went on a run to lead by 15 points with 1:40 left in the game.
Kamari Talley, who is regarded as a Division I talent, lead Rutgers-Camden with 20 points. She also had 14 rebounds, two assists, five steals and a block.
“She is a great player, and having her on their team really has helped them improve,” Esposito said. “She is very diverse and can handle the ball well, which helps them utilize their talented post players and outside shooters.”
Michelle Obasi was the only Scarlet Raptors player in double figures, as she had 14 points. She added five rebounds, two steals and an assist, as well.
Esposito scored a game-high 17 points for the Lions while both seniors Jessica Goldbach and Kelly Coughlin scored nine.
“Our team has always been about sharing the ball and finding the open player,” said Esposito of her game-high performances. “Over the last few games, my teammates have done a good job of finding me when I’m open, and I have been able to knock down some shots. Our team has so many great shooters that, each game, anyone is capable of scoring many points.”
Freshman Nikki Schott scored four points, while junior Christina Merlin added three. Both freshman Cindy Napolitano and senior Kylie O’Donnell contributed two points.
On Saturday, Jan. 24, the Lions lost to NCAA/USA Today Coaches’ poll, sixth-ranked Montclair State Red Hawks. The Lions lost 64-45 in this game at Montclair’s campus.
This was the second double-digit loss. Each of their four of losses since Wednesday, Dec. 10, were all by double digits.
“We can improve our intensity on defense through communication,” Coughlin said. “This doesn’t mean screaming and getting worked up, but rather strategically talking about cutters and shooters so that we can get stops. This frazzles the other team when we talk and increase ball pressure.”
The College led by one point at 16:45 in the first half. They had 15 bench points and 10 points in the paint.
Esposito also led the team with a game-high 13 points this past Saturday. Coughlin scored nine points.
Both O’Donnell and Napolitano scored six points. Junior Jess Lynch had four points, while sophomore Katy Amato scored three points. Both Schott and Merlin had two points.
The Red Hawks had three players in double-figures, as Janitza Aquino had 12 points, Melissa Tobie scored 11, while Katie Sire had 10.
Sage Bennett also chipped in nine points for Montclair, while Kayla Ceballos scored eight points. Tobie’s sister Kate scored six points, while Taylor Harmon had five points.
This week, the team will look to get their first win since Saturday, Jan. 17. The team travels to Richard Stockton on Tuesday, Jan. 28, before hosting Rutgers-Newark at home next Saturday, Jan. 31.
“I think to get two wins this coming week, we need to have a lot of energy consistently throughout the game,” Coughlin said. “We feed off of each other’s excitement during the game, and that’s what makes the game fun. If we have fun and play together, we have such a strong group that not everyone can be stopped from scoring, and our offense will flow from our defensive intensity.”