The Montclair State University Red Hawks overcame a slow offensive start to the game with strong defense to cruise to a 82-59 victory over the Kean University Cougars in a New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) matchup at Panzer Athletic Center. Although the score may indicate the Red Hawks had a great day on the offensive end, they relied mainly on great defense for most of the game to help carry them to victory.
Both teams came out the gates slow in the opening minutes of game, shooting poorly from the field, as both teams played very tough and gritty defensively. However, Montclair State would slowly begin to pick up their offense midway through the first half, going on a 8-0 run that was capped off by a fantastic and-one by sophomore center Malachi Smythe to give them an early 16-7 lead with 11:18 remaining in the game.
Montclair State’s offensive would slowly continue to find better shots later in the half, improving their field goal percentage to 41 percent by the end of the half. A big reason for this was senior forward Jordan Robertson, who was instrumental in giving the Red Hawks several offensive rebounds.
Robertson, who finished the game with double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds, believes he had an advantage over his defender for the entire game.
“I had a smaller guy on me for most of the game,” Robertson said. “I knew I had to crash the boards aggressively and take my time down in the post because nobody could really block my shot.”
Montclair State would finish the first half strong as they went on another 12-2 run to push their lead to 13 points. The Red Hawks dominated defensively throughout the final six minutes of the half, with Kean shooting below 12 percent from the field during this stretch. The run was highlighted by a crafty layup by Smythe with a few seconds remaining in the half to give the Red Hawks a 38-23 lead at halftime.
Both teams started the second half firing on all cylinders on the offensive side, with both teams trading baskets for the first few minutes of the half. The Cougars hot start offensively was short-lived, as they settled for more contested mid-range shots toward the end of the game. They shot an abysmal 35 percent from the field throughout the game. Montclair State saw this as their opportunity to put the game away for good.
A 15-5 run in the final seven minutes by the Red Hawks would seal the Cougars’ fate for good, as sophomore forward Joseph Radi nailed a contested three-point shot with 4:26 remaining in the game to extend to 73-51. Montclair State would eventually take their starters out and coast the rest of the way to a victory.
Radi was very effective from the three-point line in the game, as all of his points came from beyond the arc. He finished with 15 points in the game and was a big part of Montclair State’s offensive success in the second half.
Radi credited his great three-point shooting in this game to the extra time he spends at practice every day.
“Everyday I stay after practice to work on my shooting,” Radi said. “Every time I take a shot, I feel confident that it will go in.”
This victory will certainly help the Red Hawks achieve their goal in being the number one seed in the tournament, as they are currently a game and a half back from the current number one seed: New Jersey City University. However, junior guard Akbar Hoffman believes while it will help having home-court advantage, they can beat anyone on the road.
“If we get home-court advantage in the conference, there’s no telling what we could do in the tournament,” Hoffman said. “However, even if we don’t get it, we have to continue to play good Montclair State basketball.”