Rowan men’s basketball handled an early surge from the Rutgers University-Camden Scarlet Raptors on Wednesday, Feb. 1, to win their 10th straight game 101-86. After this win, the Profs are 18-3 for the season and 14-0 in New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) matchups.
This game was played following the Profs being ranked No. 25 in the d3hoops.com Top 25 National Poll, and the Scarlet Raptors wanted to prove they could compete with nationally ranked Rowan. Rutgers-Camden jumped out of the gate with a purpose, and with 14:01 left in the first half took a 14-13 lead over Rowan.
“We have ambitions to be in the top ten and we want to keep winning, and play really good basketball in February and March,” Rowan Head Coach Joe Crispin said. “Today we didn’t play really good basketball, we were a little too casual.”
The game was back and forth for much of the first half, with Rowan delivering hits and the Scarlet Raptors bouncing back. With the game tied at 26, Rowan went on a 9-1 scoring run before Rutgers-Camden again cut the lead to three points.
Despite Rutgers-Camden’s best efforts to stay close, the Profs lead grew to double-digits as they went into the half up 55-43.
“No disrespect to them as a team, but we have bigger goals than just winning this game,” junior guard Ja’Zere Noel said. “We have to get better every day against every team, our biggest goal is to win the national title.”
A key to Rowan maintaining control of the game was the Prof’s ability to get the Scarlet Raptors’ leading scorer Cameron Downs in foul trouble early, causing him to have to miss some of the game.
“Usually, I try to attack my defender, but coach [Coach Crispin] pointed out he was a good shooter,” Noel said. “And we do try to get guys in foul trouble to try to make the other team as weak as possible.”
Rowan settled in after a less-than-ideal first half and remained in control for the entirety of the second half, as Rowan held at least an eight-point lead for the remainder of the game after the break.
“It’s tough,” senior guard Hafeez Melvin said. “But we are a good team, so we have to complete the task.”
Melvin hit two free throws to give Rowan its first 20-point lead of the night at 82-62. He was a much-needed spark for the team and added 15 points off the bench to Rowan’s effort.
“I just want to be able to provide that spark off the bench and come in to make a difference when the team needs me,” Melvin said. “I just have to stay in my flow and be ready.”
Despite Rutgers-Camden’s hustle and determination, Rowan was just too much for the Scarlet Raptors to contain. Rowan may not have played its best defensive game, but as has been the case all season, the offense made up for it and secured them the win.
“Rutgers-Camden plays hard, and they’re in last place,” Coach Crispin said. “It’s a harder game in its own light for that reason, but we did what we had to do, and we’ll take that and move forward.”
Rowan will look to continue their cruise through the NJAC and improve to 15-0 in conference, and 19-3 overall, against the Kean University Cougars on Saturday, Feb. 4.
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