Back on Nov. 30, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) Lions got the better of the Rowan women’s basketball team in Ewing, NJ with a 71-52 victory. On Wednesday, Jan. 25, however, the Profs’ took down their New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) rival in double-digit fashion, 60-45, to take control of the fourth seed in the conference.
Rowan was led to victory by a hounding defense, another strong Nicole Mallard performance and an impressive fourth quarter.
Even though the Profs trailed by two, 13-11, at the end of the first, a strong second quarter got the Profs back on track.
The usual full-court press was on display for Rowan once again, with key turnovers being caused by several backcourt members for Rowan.
“It’s just what we do best,” Mallard said. “Sometimes it’s better than other days, but today once we got it going offensively, it feeds into the defense, and vice versa. Once we get one steal it’s like guaranteed we’ll get another and it sets the momentum for the rest of the game.”
Rowan forced 11 turnovers in the first half alone while grabbing seven steals.
Although Rowan struggled from downtown in the first half, going 1-6, they were able to shoot 38.7% from the floor. TCNJ was able to knock down five three-pointers and ten baskets overall in the first half to put themselves within reach, 30-26, at the half.
The Profs’ defense continued to be a difference maker in the second half, only allowing TCNJ to hit two field goals and a pair of free throws in the third quarter, making their total points for the quarter just six. While TCNJ struggled offensively, Rowan narrowly outscored the Lions, making three field goals and scoring eight points in the frame.
Nearing the end of the third, Rowan turned up the dial with their intensity, allowing them to close the quarter strong.
“In the end of the third quarter into the fourth quarter, you could see the separation that formula was working and we just stayed that way,” Head Coach Demetrius Poles said. “We dug in and that was the main factor. We want to play fast, we want to play furious and we want to stay connected on defense and pressure the ball.”
To start off the fourth quarter, the Profs went on a 10-0 run, propelling them to a double-digit lead which they did not surrender.
Mallard cited that the Profs knew TCNJ does not score at a high clip, compared to the Profs who now average 72.3 points per game. Rowan had to play to their strengths while exploiting the weakness of the Lions.
“We knew that TCNJ is one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league, so we knew that we had to push it,” Mallard said. “It kind of took us until the fourth quarter to realize that we didn’t have to play to their pace, we could play faster and score with what they were giving us.”
Mallard scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Grace Marshall collected nine of her 13 points in the fourth.
“She’s [Mallard’s] a dominant player on the court,” Coach Poles said. “She came ready to play and that’s the Nicole we need at all times.”
The Profs put up 22 points in the fourth quarter and continued to lock down defensively, leading to 20 turnovers, in which led Rowan to score 18 times.
After heating up in the fourth quarter, Rowan amassed their largest lead to 17 with less than a minute remaining. The Profs were able to close out the game effectively, securing the 60-45 win.
With this win, the Profs overtake the Lions for the fourth seed in the NJAC, moving their conference record to 8-4 and overall record to 12-7. The Profs also increased their win streak to four.
“This is a huge win,” Mallard said. “We keep climbing up and up so we can hopefully get higher once the tournament starts, [this win] puts us above TCNJ, this is great for the tournament and the rest of the season.”
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