After nearly snatching a victory from the jaws of defeat in their regular season finale, the Rowan men’s basketball team lost an overtime thriller to Montclair State University 104-100 on the team’s Senior Night, Wednesday, Feb. 15.
“I think the best way to honor seniors is to win and we didn’t win,” Head Coach Joe Crispin said. “Now the best way to honor the seniors is to win the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). I think our senior group has naturally done a great job and they’re a great group, but nobody is feeling great about Senior Night when you lose.”
What started as a night meant to honor the careers of Connor Dickerson, D’Andre Vilmar, Andrew Seager, Hafeez Melvin and Stretch Hawkins, quickly went awry. The team struggled out of the gate, shooting just 35% from the floor and found themselves trailing 43-34 entering the locker rooms as a result.
“We were horrible. We played stupid. We played immature, dumb, offensive basketball,” Coach Crispin said. “It was a nightmare and I think it was dumb basketball frankly… I don’t know any other way to put it. Ja’Zere [Noel] barely touched the ball and we were all chucking up shots like it was in a hurry.”
As Coach Crispin alluded to, Ja’Zere Noel, the top scorer in the conference who averages just under 20 a night, was held scoreless at the half on a mere three shot attempts.
Things got better for the Profs in the second half, as they were able to cut Montclair State’s lead to within five. However, any time Rowan was close to taking the lead, the Red Hawks knocked down a big shot to stay ahead.
“Montclair played great,” Coach Crispin said. “They shot the ball great, they work well together, they played a great game, they really did. They played their tails off, they hit big shots and we didn’t.”
Following a Noel jumper with 1:38 left to make it 90-88 and trim the deficit to just two, the Profs were in need of a stop. Dickerson gave the team the play they were searching for with a block on Montclair’s Steven Breeman’s shot attempt at the rim. With the team on the break, Melvin found Seager cutting to the basket to tie the game at 90 with 1:16 left and send Esby Gym into a frenzy.
After a pair of missed shots from Dickerson and Breeman, the Profs called a timeout and were in need of a bucket with 10.4 seconds left. Seager started to drive to the basket, but was ultimately fouled by Breeman with 5.5 seconds left. Seager knocked down both foul shots.
The Profs were just a stop away. However, with 5.5 seconds left, Montclair’s Keyon Pryce drove the length of the court to tie the game at 92 and send it to overtime.
“We were up two, the kid made a great play to put it into overtime and it’s a hard situation because you don’t want to foul,” Coach Crispin said. “We thought about fouling on purpose and maybe I’ll do that next time around. You don’t want to give up the three and you don’t want to foul, so it’s a harder situation than people think.”
The game was neck and neck throughout overtime, as Montclair State was holding onto a one point lead with 34 seconds left, but a late foul from Seager with 11 seconds left sent Montclair’s Kieran Flanagan to the line, who sank both shots. Now suddenly down three with 7 seconds left, the Profs needed a bucket, but a turnover killed any chance of a potential game-tying shot.
With the NJAC playoffs up next, Coach Crispin wants the team to focus and learn from these past couple of weeks.
“It’s a new season,” Coach Crispin said. “I think we know who we are and we know what we have to do. We didn’t play a great game. We know we’re good and we didn’t play well but I think these last couple weeks for us have been a wake up call… We gotta learn from it and recover, simple as that.”
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