The Montclair State University men’s basketball team is off to a fast start after defeating Ithaca College 93-79 to claim their second win in a row to start the 2022 season. Senior forward Steve Breeman and sophomore guard Kyree Henry dazzled a packed Panzer Athletic Center with a combined 40 points.
The Red Hawks came in playing the run-and-gun offense that they have been known for during head coach Justin Potts’ run with the team. Early on, Ithaca took on the challenge by matching Montclair State’s speed. They took advantage of several turnovers to score easy points under the basket during a 13-4 run, putting themselves up by seven.
However, the momentum changed when Breeman got a key steal which he quickly dished out to senior guard Keyon Pryce who drained a mid-range shot soon after. Breeman said that his performance was the result of the effort he put in during the preseason, which led to his 23 points, nine rebounds and three steals against the Bombers.
“[It] was really just a lot of good preparation and hard work every single day,” Breeman said. “Putting in tons of hard work, tons of extra hours, watching tons of film and you know just getting at it with the same mentality.”
Another factor in the game was Montclair State’s ability to score from the arc. The Red Hawks converted 41.9% of their three-pointers while Ithaca shot under 20%. Sophomore guard Mike Jackson and junior guard Kallem Lambert put up back-to-back three-pointers, putting Montclair State up 55-45 at halftime.
Coming out of the locker room, Henry took over. He put up 17 points while making an impressive five three-pointers throughout the game in addition to three rebounds and three steals. Assistant coach Sean Rossi said that he was impressed with Henry’s performance.
“We knew coming in that he was a special player,” Rossi said. “To have him come in and hit that many big shots, you never can expect that, but again, he gets a ton of shots up every day, he works on his game, he studies the game, he’s constantly sending us clips with questions on defense and on offense, so I’m not really that surprised that he came in there and showcased the work that he’s been putting in, I’m proud of him.”
Midway through the second half, Montclair State’s run-and-gun offense became too much for the Bombers to handle. The Ithaca squad was noticeably tired throughout the half, allowing Pryce and Jackson to help the team to pull ahead. Rossi said that the team’s depth is why the Red Hawks could dictate the pace of play.
“As we started subbing guys [in and out], we kept throwing waves at them, punch after punch, eventually we thought they were going to fold,” Rossi said. “That’s our thought going into every single game. Teams are going to hit you with runs, especially good teams, all we can do is keep punching them, keep coming in with our depth, and eventually, they’re going to break, and that’s what we saw.”
When the buzzer sounded at the end of the game, Montclair State had prevailed over a strong Ithaca team. Breeman said that Friday’s big win was only the beginning for a Red Hawk squad that was ranked third in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) preseason coaches poll.
“It’s a good measuring stick to see where we’re at just so we get a lot better every single day,” Breeman said. “The sky’s really the limit for this team. I’m really excited to work every day with these guys and this is just the beginning of our journey and we’re just going [to] keep trying [to] get a little bit better every day and at the end of the day we’ll see how good we can be.”