Rowan men’s basketball picked up their eighth straight win on Wednesday, Jan. 25, powering through a sluggish start to take down The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) Lions, 83-65. With the win, the Profs remain undefeated in New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) play at 12-0.
After an opening layup from junior forward Andrew Seager to get the scoring started, the Profs found themselves trailing the Lions for a large remainder of the first half. Despite the deficit, the team had no doubt in their ability to claw back into it.
“We keep a real positive mindset where we just gotta fight and crawl, and just win,” junior forward Ja’Zere Noel said. “We truly believe we gotta win in any way possible.”
It wasn’t until senior guard D’Andre Vilmar posterized a TCNJ defender with 6:05 left in the first half that Rowan tied the game. Then, the Profs grabbed the lead after junior guard Marcellus Ross hit a three to make it a 32-29 game with 5:34 left.
The Profs and Lions traded jabs for the remainder of the first half and Rowan went into the locker room with a 40-39 lead, however, Head Coach Joe Crispin wasn’t pleased with the offense going into halftime.
“I just thought we shot too many threes,” Head Coach Joe Crispin said. “We weren’t on the attack, we are an attack-oriented team. We’re great finishing around the rim… We’re great getting to the free throw line, and we didn’t do that in the first half.”
Coach Crispin’s halftime message to the team stuck, as they attempted 11 fewer threes and got to the line seven more times in a half where they put up 43 points. Noel led the way once again for the team, putting up 20 points for the fourth time in the last five games.
“I’m really locked in at this point. I want to win a championship for this school, for this community,” Noel said. “I just want to bring some happiness back to Rowan and bring something together, something special.”
One thing in particular that the Profs, especially Vilmar and junior guard Damien Smith, were able to do was shut down the Lions leading scorer, Anthony DiCaro. He scored 23 against Rowan in their last matchup back in November, but DiCaro scored just four points tonight.
“For ‘Dre [Vilmar] and Dame [Smith], I call them ‘the dogs, DAWGs,” Coach Crispin said. “They love defending, they’re long, they’re tough, they can guard a variety of guys. They did a good job on Ant [DiCaro] tonight… I think he’s their engine, so we knew that we couldn’t let him be comfortable.”
Rowan’s ability to take away the Lions’ offense by limiting DiCaro worked, as TCNJ went just over six minutes without recording a basket throughout the middle of the second half to help the Profs pull away.
“Josh [Wright] yelled about defense so we knew we had to lock in,” Vilmar said. “If Josh yells about defense, you lock in. We knew what we had to do, we had a game plan we had to execute and we executed it.”
Even after the win, the Profs know there is still work to be done.
“We weren’t happy, obviously. If we want to be the best team in the country, we can’t come out like that,” sophomore guard Josh Wright said. “No knock on TCNJ, but I feel like we’re way better… I just feel like we just had a sense of urgency, finally, to wake up, and it just felt great to get that win.”
The Profs will look to improve to 13-0 in NJAC play and 17-3 overall when they take on the Ramapo Roadrunners on Saturday, Jan. 28.
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