Lions come back to beat the defending NJAC Champs

By Miguel Gonzalez 

Sports Editor

The Lions continue their blazing start to the season with consecutive wins against New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) opponents. After falling to Skidmore College, 84-96, on Monday, Nov. 28, the Lions defeated Stockton University, 66-62, two days later. The following Saturday, Dec. 3, the Lions crushed Kean University, 77-43.

In Saratoga Springs, N.Y., the Lions could not keep up with the Skidmore College Thoroughbreds consistent shooting led by sophomore guard Edvinas Rupkus’s 37-point performance. The Lions fell to a 6-2 deficit in the beginning. The Thoroughbreds senior guard Aldin Medunjanin was the mailman of his team’s offense with five assists in the first half.

Jensen grabs six rebounds and scores five points. (Courtesy of Sports Information Desk)
Jensen grabs six rebounds and scores five points. (Courtesy of Sports Information Desk)

Senior forward Bobby Brackett played physical against the Thoroughbreds as he registered a double-double performance.

During the game, Brackett recorded his 672th rebound, passing Bill Burr (’99) and becoming fourth in the Lions all-time rebounding list.    

The Lions offense stumbled in the second half, while the Thoroughbreds hung on until the 96-84 result. Senior forward Corey Stanford and Brackett missed back-to-back layup attempts during the first two minutes of the second half. By the 25th minute, the Thoroughbreds junior center Marcus Jackson and Rupkus sunk in three layups and the Thoroughbreds lead grew to 58-38.

Even though junior guard Eric Murdock  and Stanford fought hard in the second half, the Thoroughbreds remained ahead and almost reached 100 points.

“We can improve on so much,” Brackett said. “I don’t even think we realize how good we can be. There have been signs of us playing better together but we have yet to play our best for an entire game.”

After the loss, the Lions journeyed to Galloway, N.J., to compete against the Stockton University Ospreys: the defending NJAC champions who defeated them in last season’s NJAC final. Unlike the finals match the previous February, the Lions came out with a 66-62 victory.

“Going into the Stockton game we definitely had a little extra motivation since they beat us in the conference championship last season,” Brackett said. “It’s always fun playing against them and it was no different this time.”

  Like the previous match against Skidmore, the Lions quickly fell 0-8 deficit. Ospreys sophomore guard Kashaun Barnes was the centerpiece of his team’s offense. Barnes twice shoveled a pass to senior guard Tom Catanoso as he threw in two three-pointers.  

Starting in the 10th minute, the Lions furiously erased their deficit thanks to Murdock. The Lions finished the first half only three points behind, 31-28.

The Ospreys responded immediately in the second half with a 12-4 run. Ospreys sophomore guard/forward Brandon Hamilton speared through the Lions defense and scored 10 points on multiple jumpers. With 13 minutes remaining, the Lions found themselves far behind, 47-36.

The Lions began to rally when Bermudez leaped for a layup. Murdock instantly followed up with a pair of three-pointers behind the arc. Meanwhile, Ospreys junior forward Darius Jerkins slowed the Lions momentum by forcing fouls and draining free throws. By the fifth minute, the Lions were only trailing by three points.

Two minutes later, sophomore guard Joe Montano fed a pass to Murdock, who proceeded to tie the match, 62-62, with a three-pointer. Afterwards, the Lions built their first lead of the match and won, 66-62.

After the close game, the Lions returned to Packer Hall and crushed the Kean University Cougars, 77-43. The Lions began the match with a 9-0 lead and never looked back. At the beginning of the second half, Murdock swapped the ball from Cougar’s sophomore guard Jodrell Thompson and recorded his 100th career steal.        

The Lions remain home for the week as they take on Delaware Valley University Aggies at Packer Hall on Monday, Dec. 5, 8 p.m. Later, on Wednesday, Dec. 7, the Lions compete in another conference matchup at home against the Rowan University Profs at 8 p.m. The Lions then finish the week away at New Jersey City University on Saturday, Dec. 10.