Rowan men’s basketball continues its NJAC dominance with win over NJCU

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Ja'Zere Noel rises over two defenders for a mid range jumper. Noel recorded a double-double in the win over NJCU. - Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. - Photo via Lee Kotzen

On Wednesday, Feb. 7, Rowan men’s basketball took on the Gothic Knights of New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Esby Gymnasium. 

Despite the Gothic Knights sitting towards the bottom of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) with a 7-15 overall record, NJCU gave Rowan trouble in their previous matchup. When the two teams faced off in Jersey City, the Profs won 114-111 in an overtime thriller, but it took the big three of Marcellus Ross, Ja’Zere Noel, and Khalif Meares to score a combined 77 points to win the game for Rowan.

This time was different, however, as the Profs defeated the Gothic Knights 99-87 in regulation to improve their record to 18-5 and maintain control of the number one seed in the NJAC. 

“Jersey City’s a tough team, you get up 10, you get up 11, they fought back and did throughout the whole game but our guys did a great job responding to the runs Jersey City went on,” head coach Eric Brennan said. 

The Profs were able to lead the game 51-39 after going on a 10-0 run that was capped by a Ross step-back buzzer beater to end the first half. The lead wasn’t this comfortable the whole game though, as NJCU was able to close the deficit to four at one point.

Rowan, led by Noel and Ross, who each scolded and assisted on the majority of the buckets would break another big run though, outscoring NJCU by 20 over the final minutes to increase the winning streak to six games.

Noel once again filled up the stat sheet against NJCU, ending with 28 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and four blocks, and in the 11 games he’s played since the new year, it’s his sixth with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

“I feel towards the end of the season is when I’m just getting started to fully going…I’ve been continuing to get comfortable with my teammates and I feel I get better as the game goes on,” Noel said.

Noel was also a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line, which was something that a friend told him before tip-off to focus on today.

“Over the past couple of games it’s been a rocky road on the free throw line for me,” Noel said. “Actually one of my close friends came to me pregame and told me ‘You better make all your free throws today’ so tonight I made sure to lock in on that.” 

Ross, who is known for being the Profs’ sharpshooter from three-point range, shot just 2-9 from beyond the arc in Wednesday’s game. Instead, he did most of his damage driving to the rim for two or drawing fouls on NJCU and converting on free throw opportunities.

“I know I’m a good shooter and at times it’s just how the game works that your shots just aren’t falling so being able to get myself to the free throw line and take advantage of those,” Ross said. “But at the same time, I know there’s five to six players that might have it going so I can wait my turn.”

The players that had it going were junior forward Jamir Spivey and junior guard Josh Wright. Spivey scored 15 points on 5-5 shooting from the field and 5-7 from the free throw line, while Wright scored 14 points in 11 minutes played against NJCU. 

The next game for the Profs will be a trip to Newark, N.J. to take on the 12-11 Rutgers-Newark Scarlet Raiders, a team that the Profs beat 95-56 on Jan. 13, but also a team that Rowan can’t take lightly.

“Rutgers Newark is a very physical team,” Brennan said. “They play hard nose defense so we really got to move the ball against them and get some stops. If we get stops and play in transition the Rutgers Newark can’t play a set defense and we can take advantage of that.”

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