Montclair State left behind their string of disappointing play and put forth their most dominating performance of the season in their most recent game against New Jersey City University. The Red Hawks utilized every single one of their 13 players in their 75-24 victory on Jan. 16.
Despite what the final score might show, the team’s dominating performance was more than a complete dismantling of the other team which is typical in blowouts. With increased playing time, several of the team’s bench players stepped up and provided some of their best basketball to date.
Sophomore Erica Snow scored a career-high 11 points off the bench, including nine points from beyond the three-point line. Freshman Domonique Wirsing set several career-highs and stuffed the stat sheet with six points, six rebounds, three blocks and two assists. In a game where the Red Hawks bench outscored its starters, the team was able to use this game as a building block for the rest of the season.
“We played all 13 players on our team,” head coach Karin Harvey said after the game. “We really worked on trying to get our post more involved in the offensive end. It’s something we want to move towards.”
To that point, the Red Hawks continually worked the ball down in the post and sophomore Yazmine Lacy was the main beneficiary. She set a career-high with 11 points in addition to providing eight rebounds.
Sophomores Sage Bennett and Taylor Harmon also saw an increased workload in the post. However, they were unable to convert their opportunities into points more often than not.
Underscoring all of this is a Red Hawks team that is still trying to adapt to the loss of senior Kayla Ceballos. Since losing Ceballos to a season-ending ACL injury, Montclair State dropped four of their previous six games and have struggled to find consistency.
A solid post presence might be exactly what the team needs to get back on track. Prior Ceballos’ injury, Bennett was the only player in the starting lineup that fit the mold of a prototypical “big.” Now, Harmon has now been inserted into the starting lineup in two consecutive games and the Red Hawks have two bigs they can work down in the post.
Sophomore Katie Sire has occupied that role for most of the season and is more than capable of doing so. However, she doesn’t provide the domineering low post presence that Montclair State seems to be looking for. Bennett and Harmon have the tools necessary to be an effective 1-2 punch for the Red Hawks. To get to that point, though, the two need to finish consistently on their offensive opportunities to show that they can be relied on for scoring.
It’s easy for players to kick back and relax in a 49 point blowout, but the coaches ensured this wasn’t the case. They used the players’ time on the court to work on and develop their offense. At the same time, they used their players’ time on the bench to teach and point out things they were noticing during the game. After the game, Harvey said, “There’s no throwaway games for us at all, especially with the way we have been playing.”
The Red Hawks’ performance isn’t necessarily a prime example of what they’re capable of moving forward, as NJCU came into the game with a 1-13 record. However, it’s a step in the right direction in terms of coping with the loss of Ceballos, as well as reasserting their top position in the New Jersey Athletic Conference.
Montclair State will go on the road to face Kean University and The College of New Jersey on Jan. 20 and Jan. 23, respectively. They’ll return home to Panzer Athletic Center on Jan. 27 to face off against Rutgers-Newark.