In what was their fourth game in the past seven days, the Rowan men’s basketball team picked up their seventh straight win after defeating the Ramapo College Roadrunners 86-67 on Saturday, Dec. 10. They improved to 7-2 and 5-0 in New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) play.
Despite the loaded week, fatigue didn’t start to set in. Head Coach Joe Crispin believes that the team’s recent schedule affected the team in a “positive manner.”
“We had good energy. We knew this was a good game right, I think our last couple of games we just knew we were gonna win,” Coach Crispin said. “We weren’t playing our most focused ball so I liked us better today… I thought our guys overall did a good job.”
The Profs played like a focused group on both sides of the court, but you could really see the focus on the defensive side. The Profs held the Roadrunners to roughly 43% from the field for the majority of the game. The Roadrunners took just eight free throws all game compared to the Profs 24, a testament to the Profs’ discipline to play without fouling.
“We emphasize not fouling. Fouling stops the clock, fouling gives them a chance to rest, fouling stops rhythm, so us playing without fouling while still being aggressive is really, really important to us,” Coach Crispin said. “Usually our free throw differential is a big factor in the game and today I think it was.”
Another key to the Profs’ lockdown defense was the little on the court challenge some of the Profs had between the team.
“We have this thing that we keep track of every game called team deflections. Our goal is to get as many as possible, so every game we want to get around 100 if possible, tonight we got like 89,” guard Marcellus Ross said. “Everytime we’re out there each person’s supposed to get as many deflections as possible… it’s like a fun competition with a bunch of teammates.”
The Profs’ competition produced a ton of results, as the team forced 10 of Ramapo’s 24 turnovers in the first half to guide them to a 40-30 lead entering the locker room. The Profs had a chance to put the Roadrunners away early in the second half after being up 50-39, but Rowan’s offense went ice cold as they went four straight minutes without any points, diminishing the lead to just five.
The scoreless streak was broken after forward Stretch Hawkins split a pair of free throws to make it 51-45 with 12:04 remaining. From there, the Profs’ offense flipped a switch and the team went on a 20-5 run over the next five minutes to push their lead to 21.
“We know it’s going to happen sooner or later,” Coach Crispin said. “I just keep saying it’s gonna take two made shots and then all of a sudden the thing’s gonna break right open.”
All it took was two shots for the Profs as Hawkins and guard Josh Wright got the Profs rolling with some quality minutes off the bench. The duo scored 15 of the Profs’ 20 during the run.
“First half doesn’t always go my way, but second half I came in and forgot about everything, stopped thinking and just played, had fun,” Hawkins said. “You could tell I was starting to have fun, got it going, see the ball go in, after that, the rest is history.”
Ross and forward Ja’Zere Noel took the Profs home the rest of the way, putting up 21 and 20 respectively to seal the deal for Rowan.
“For me, I’ve been in a slump the past couple of games so today felt good,” Ross said. “I was able to get hot, catch a little bit of a rhythm, so we just want to keep this momentum going now to Christmas break.”
The Profs will look to keep the momentum going as they take on the 5-5 Salisbury University Sea Gulls next Saturday, Dec. 17, in Esbjornson Gymnasium at 6 p.m in their final game before Christmas break.
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