Rowan Women’s Basketball blows out TCNJ for first NJAC win

Eliana Santana gets ready to shoot a free throw. Santana recorded a team-high 17 points in the win against TCNJ. - Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. - Photo via Lee Kotzen

Coming off a blowout victory against Gwynedd Mercy on Monday, the Rowan Women’s Basketball team had the opportunity to make a statement in their matchup against The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) on Wednesday, Nov. 29. They did just that, picking up a 71-51 victory over the Lions.

With this win, they are over the .500 mark for the first time this season, racked up their first New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) game of the season, and won a game against a team that was ranked better than them in the NJAC preseason poll.

At the start of the game, Rowan went with a new look in the starting five. Sabrina Arajuo started over Jess McLaughlin for the first time this season at guard. Araujo was coming off an impressive game against Gwynedd Mercy, hitting four threes and scoring 13 points total.

“To start the game really meant a lot to me,” Araujo said. “The last two years have been rocky for me. I was not confident, and now it just means a lot for the coach to have that confidence in me.”

Even though it was a good offensive game for her the other night, her head coach, Kate Pearson, saw the effort she was putting on the other side of the ball.

“She played well the other night, but a lot of it was defense,” Pearson said. “They are a very good offensive team. She had been doing a lot on the defensive end, so we decided to switch it up tonight.”

With TCNJ relying heavily on their guards and the three-point ball, Pearson thought it was necessary to switch things up and her faith in Araujo was rewarded.

“For me, it is all mental to stay locked in on defense,” Araujo said. “I just do what the coach tells me on that end. It keeps me confident.”

The Profs held the Lions to 12 points in the first quarter. Unfortunately for Rowan, they could only score 8 points in that same quarter. With the Lions being so perimeter-centric, the Profs ran a lot of plays for their forward, Eliana Santana. Santana ended the game as the Profs’ leading scorer with 17 points in total.

“Something we talked about before the game tonight was they run a lot of guard-oriented offense,” Pearson said. “So on the defensive end, they are also playing guards on that end and she was able to take advantage.”

For Santana, when she plays a game against a smaller lineup, the game plan for her is simple.

“Looking at the defense, I try to find who is smaller than me,” Santana said. “At that point, it is just playing big on them. I could not do any of that without the guards passing it inside to me.”

Despite the advantage for Santana, TCNJ stayed in it until the last seven minutes of the game, when they were only down by six.

“Someone usually has a big spark,” Santana said. “Someone usually makes a big basket. After that, we just keep it going, keep it moving.”

That spark took place when Araujo got an offensive rebound and passed it to Kate Herlihy for a layup to go up ten, but the game was still all but over. Rowan kept grinding though, and went on a 17-5 run to close out the game.

In what was a team win, one player who got unlucky all night was the team’s second-leading scorer, Nicole Mallard. In the 17-5 run at the end, she had a layup that went in and out, which also happened a few other times throughout the game.

“I actually told Nicole at the end of the game after she missed a layup that coulda, shoulda, woulda went in,” Pearson said. “I said, ‘It is alright it is not your night tonight, your teammates picked you up.’ It is a team win. Nicole is a great player, but what is nice for her is she has great players around her.”

Mallard, in the first game of the season, scored half of her team’s points. Now with the chemistry and energy the team is playing with, she does not need to carry the offensive load for the team.

With this win, Rowan now moves to 4-3 on the season, and with their confidence at a season high, they will try to extend their win streak to three in another NJAC game against William Paterson on Saturday, Dec. 2.

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