By Otto Gomez
During Winter Break, while most of the players’ classmates and peers were home relaxing and preparing themselves for the tough spring semester, the College’s men’s basketball team kept very busy. Having played 12 games since the beginning of December, the team has been all around the state playing different NJAC opponents, including a game against John Jay College of New York.
They will round out the month of January with a home game against Stockton University on Wednesday, Jan. 27, and a game against Rutgers-Newark on Saturday, Jan. 30. So far, the team sits at a strong 11-6 overall record, while being 6-4 in NJAC play, placing them fifth in the conference standings.
Starting on Tuesday, Dec. 1, the Lions fell to Skidmore College by a score of 69-57. A late first half run by the Thoroughbreds proved too much of a lead to come back from — even with a strong performance by the team’s captains, junior guard Eric Klacik and sophomore guard Eric Murdock, Jr., who scored 20 and 17 points, respectively. The next day, the team was able to bounce back in a strong way by defeating Stockton University, 76-70, led by sophomore forward Elias Bermudez’s 10 and 12 double-double.
Next on the schedule was the season’s first matchup against Rutgers-Newark, a very closely contested game that came down to the last minutes, resulting in a 76-70 Lions’ loss.
This game motivated the Lions, as it led to a three game winning streak against Rowan University and John Jay College on Wednesday, Dec. 9, and Fairleigh Dickinson-Florham Monday, Jan. 4. Freshman forward Jordan Glover played a role in each game, averaging almost 12 points a game and being a huge presence on defense. Glover came into the College with huge expectations and he has found, along with the rest of the team, that he fits in perfectly.
“I just come out every game with the thought of winning a national championship,” Glover said. “I play my role and I try to motivate my teammates around me to keep striving for that one goal. I take open shots when I have them and I try my best to grab every rebound. The coaching staff around me gives me a lot of confidence to guard some of the best wings in the NJAC and they have made me feel at home here at TCNJ.”
To begin the second half of the season, the Lions started a stretch of four consecutive games against fellow NJAC opponents. The team came out of the stretch at an even 2-2, with wins against New Jersey City University and Kean University and loses against Ramapo College and William Paterson University. One constant, however, was the strong play of Murdock, who consistently put up big all-around numbers throughout the game. It’s clear that it is his team and that they will go as far as he takes them, for he controls the ball, the pace and the perimeter at all times.
Just in time for the beginning of classes, the Lions have regrouped and won their last two games by an average of almost 22 points per game. In their 23-point victory against Baruch College, the Lions had four players in double-digit scoring. Two days later, in a 20-point blowout against Rutgers-Camden, the Lions saw some great things from unexpected players. Junior and guard Nick Alaimo and freshman Kevin Bloodgood, both guards contributed 16 and 18 points, respectively. This is a strong sign for the team, now certain that players other than Murdock, and Glover can contribute to victories.
With the season’s end in sight, the goal is clear for the team and that is to make the NJAC playoffs. All the players, including Glover, know that they must make improvements and give maximum effort as they hunt down a playoff spot.
“Our coaches want us to come out and play smarter than our opponents,” Glover said. “We prepare for every game like it’s a championship game and our coaches tells us to play every game like it’s our last. Coach Goldsmith is a one of kind and he knows what it takes to win as a player and as a coach.”
The Lions face Stockton University at home on Wednesday, Jan. 27, their second game in a nine consecutive matchup streak against fellow NJAC opponents.