By Otto Gomez
The Lions continued their push for the New Jersey Athletic Conference title as they faced off against two conference foes this week. They first traveled to William Paterson University on Wednesday, Feb. 8, and came out victorious for the first time in more than 10 years, finishing on top after a 90-85 shootout.
On Saturday, Feb. 11, they squared off against Montclair State University on the road and conceded to the Red Hawks, losing 70-63.
The men’s basketball team beat the Pioneers on its home court for the first time since 2005 mainly because of senior forward Corey Stanford and junior guard Eric Murdock Jr.’s pinpoint shooting.
Stanford ended the game with a very strong line of 21 points and 17 rebounds. Meanwhile, Murdock Jr. led all scorers with 22 points. The team started furiously and scored 10 points. They led by as much as 13 in the first half, eventually closing out with a 45-39 lead.
The second half proved to be a tougher challenge for the Lions, as the Pioneers gained momentum and went on a 15-3 run. Roadrunners junior guard Dapo Badmos scored six points in the short run. With the game tied at 82, Stanford and Murdock Jr. took over the game, each scoring four points in the game’s final minute.
The late push secured the win. Stanford and Murdock Jr. combined to go 6-for-6 from the free throw line down the stretch to preserve the victory. Overall, the team was 21-26 from the free throw line.
“William Paterson has always been a tough place to play for us,” senior
forward Bobby Brackett said. “We never realized it dated back to the 2004-2005 season, so it feels even better knowing that we could finally do it.”
Continuing their trek through New Jersey, the Lions battled Montclair State University on Saturday. They eventually fell, leaving them tied for second place in the conference. The Lions got off to a hot start. However, their defense was not able to return the favor, allowing the Red Hawks to easily score.
The game remained close until the end of the second half when the Red Hawks went on an 11-2 run. The Lions did not counter.
“Montclair played great Saturday,” Brackett said. “They had to win to make sure they were in the playoffs and they played like it. They’re big and physical.”
The notable differences between the two teams were free throw shooting and rebounding. While they were very effective in getting to the stripe against the Pioneers, the Lions only converted half of their eight attempts. In comparison, the Red Hawks went 19-27 and secured their lead. The two teams lead the conference in rebounding, but the Red Hawks was able to secure a 46-35 advantage on the glass.
The Lions return home on Wednesday, Feb. 15, for the regular season finale against Rutgers University-Newark. The match starts at 8 p.m.