By Alexander Reich
The men’s basketball team had a great rebound week when they defeated William Paterson University, 74-70, on Feb. 7. On the same day, the NCAA announced the team was ranked No. 6 in the Atlantic region. On Saturday, Feb. 10, the Lions senior day, the Lions defeated Montclair State University, 94-78.
The Lions had trouble with their offensive play early in the game, missing layups and committing turnovers. William Paterson took advantage midway through the first half when they put 29 points on the scoreboard. But William Paterson didn’t stay consistent with their lead as they lost scoring opportunities. The College kept the score tight and ended up with a 33-29 deficit going into halftime.
Once the game resumed, the Lions performed with better chemistry. Senior guard Eric Murdock Jr. was aggressive in transition, leaving William Paterson unbalanced and exhausted from handling the Lions’ fast-paced offensive play. The team ended up drilling buckets with a total of 30 points in the paint.
Sophomore guard Randall Walko helped the team take a 40-36 lead with 16 minutes left in the game. Murdock helped increase the Lions’ lead with a layup, bringing the score to 42-38.
With less than four minutes on the clock, the Lions kept pulling away by receiving fouls and making free throws. William Paterson lost momentum in the second half, and ended up with a total of 18 turnovers, giving the game to the Lions.
According to head coach Matthew Goldsmith, the team is determined not to waste opportunities for the team to improve.
“We have a special group of young men and we are trying to push each other, grow together, and enjoy each and every day together,” Goldsmith said.
Goldsmith also discussed the team’s preparation for the game.
“Our focus last night was on us,” Goldsmith said. “It was on our execution and our fundamentals. If we played hard and focused on what we could control, the result would take care of itself.”
Murdock was able to score 26 points against William Paterson because the team created space for him, according to Goldsmith.
“I think Eric is at his best when he has space to play in,” Goldsmith said. “A lot of what we do is to create space and driving lanes for him. When he is getting out of transition and keeping that attack mindset, we are tough to slow down offensively.”
Goldsmith emphasized the team’s game plan for its senior day matchup against Montclair State.
“Heading into Saturday, I think we need to focus on us,” Goldsmith said. “Obviously, we need to game plan and be on the same page, but if we can play hard and execute the way we know we can, we will put ourselves in a position to get a positive result on Saturday.”
Going into an emotional senior day for the Lions, team earned a memorable, thrilling victory over Montclair State University.
It wasn’t easy for the Lions in the first half. Montclair State blew them over with buckets while locking down on defense.
With only three minutes left in the second half, Montclair was ahead with a 55-41 lead. The Lions proceeded to step it up, with Murdock torching Montclair with basket after basket, leading him to a 39 point performance and helping the Lions ultimately prevail.
Junior forward Jordan Glover scored a critical three-pointer to push the Lions over the top, 59-56. The College was in great shape after those plays, because its momentum shifted to furious offense. Both of the Lions’ two long range shooters, Walko and Glover, scored a combined 32 points.
With less than six minutes left, Murdock continued scoring three-pointers to breathe more life into the Lions and increase their lead to 86-75. The Lions held the lead for the rest of the half, eventually winning 94-78.
The College plays its final game of its regular season on Wednesday, Feb. 14 in Camden, New Jersey against Rutgers University-Camden.