Rowan Men’s Basketball Heads to NJAC Championship After Surviving Rutgers-Newark

Hafeez Melvin going up for a layup in the NJAC Quarterfinals. Melvin recorded 19 points on Thursday night in the team's semifinals victory. Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. - Multimedia Editor / Lee Kotzen

The Rowan men’s basketball team is officially heading to the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship on Saturday, Feb. 26.

It was another close matchup for the second-seed Profs on Thursday, Feb. 24, as third-seeded Rutgers-Newark traveled to Glassboro for the semifinals. Rowan was able to pull out the win 72-69, but just as their game against New Jersey City University in the quarterfinals, it was by less than ten points.

“The playoffs are always tough,” Head Coach Joe Crispin said. “You just have to figure out a way to get stops, give up what you give up, and then guys need to step up and make some big plays, and they did.”

While it was starting guard, sophomore Marcellus Ross who led the scoring for the Profs with 20 points, it was the bench who really stepped up in this semifinal matchup. 

The next two lead-scorers for Rowan were guards Hafeez Melvin, a junior, and Josh Wright, a freshman. The two recorded 19 and 11 points respectively, outscoring Rutgers-Newark’s bench 30-9. 

“We bring Hafeez and Josh off the bench and they’re as good of scorers that you’re going to find in the world,” Coach Crispin said. “We feel really, really good about that and Hafeez has just embraced his sixth man role. I wish they had a ‘Sixth Man of the Year’ because he’d be the far and away winner.”

Melvin has worked all season coming off the bench and, with the help of his head coach, has made it a role where he could deliver valuable results.

“My role has been off the bench all year. I kind of adapted to it,” Melvin said. “At first it was hard, Coach Crispin is such a great coach and he makes you understand the game really, really well. And as for our bench play, he treats us like starters.”

Despite the fact that Melvin and Wright brought some offensive spark to the game when they entered, the offense was an area the whole team struggled in during this matchup. The Profs scored 21 points under their season average of 93, going 37.3% from field goal range and only 18.2% from beyond the arc.

“I don’t think [Rutgers-Newark] held us, I think we shot a little rough but we got it done,” Melvin said. “We held them to [69] points, we tried to keep them under 30 the first half but as far as our offense, we just had a tough game.”

The rust on offense is something they will need to clean off by Saturday, as they are now set to play the first seeded Stockton University in Galloway. The Profs are currently 0-2 against the Osprey’s this season, so they know the challenge they will be up against. 

“We’re looking forward to it. Stockton’s a good team, I think we have the same record as they do this season and we’ve had one great game against them, the first game we were terrible, but this is what we wanted. We wanted to play the best teams in the league,” Coach Crispin said. “If you want to prove you belong at the top, you gotta beat the top team and, right now, that’s who they are.”

As for Melvin, not only is the NJAC Championship on the line this weekend but so is the chance to repay the team who has gotten the better of them twice. 

“Stockton man, we got something special for Stockton,” Melvin said. “They beat us twice, full team, we got it for Stockton man. We’re going to go there and we’re going to put on a show, definitely. We owe Stockton one.”

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