The Montclair State University men’s basketball team proved how well they can play in their recent contest against William Paterson University. Midway through the second half, junior guard Steve Breeman made one of the most gutsy and courageous plays one might see in Division III basketball. The remarkable play was a clear representation of how well the men’s basketball team can play when firing on all cylinders.
Breeman appeared to be suffering from a cramp after a failed offensive possession. On the next possession, he returned with a noticeable limp. This did not stop Breeman, as he blew passed two defenders to score a layup and earn a trip to the free-throw line after being smothered by William Paterson defenders. The courageous effort led to an uproar from the Red Hawk bench and head coach Justin Potts.
“I caught a cramp in my hamstring, and when I got the ball, the adrenaline just went through me,” Breeman said. “In the moment, I [was] not thinking about the pain.”
This superb effort was clearly visible throughout the evening, as the Red Hawks won their first game of the season, against their New Jersey Athletic Conference rival, 83-70.
While Breeman led the way with one of the best games of his athletic career (23 points and 13 rebounds), other experienced players, including senior guard/forward Irving Callender IV (15 points) and sophomore guard Keyon Pryce (10 points), helped pace the Red Hawks offensively.
Potts and the rest of his staff preached to the team that taking care of the ball was a huge priority if they wanted to win. The Red Hawks not only did that, but they forced the Pioneers into making mistakes of their own. They played with a lot of energy early on, constantly putting pressure on William Paterson, finishing the first half with seven steals.
The Red Hawks finished the game with the advantage in the turnover margin, which Potts was pleased about after the game.
“One of our issues last year was that we generated turnovers, but we also turned it over way too much,” Potts said. “Our second half doesn’t have me overly thrilled with the way we took care of the ball, but our goal is +7 [in the turnover margin], and that’s what we had. We could’ve had only 10 or 11 turnovers if we were smarter in certain situations.”
While the Red Hawks initially struggled to put up points as they missed their first six shots, they quickly found their groove as they pushed the pace offensively. After being down 5-0 early on, they went on a 10-0 run, capped off by a three-pointer by Keyon Pryce in the 13:54 mark of the first half.
The Red Hawks were not able to stretch their lead too much throughout the half as the Pioneers kept pace with them offensively. The sophomore duo of forward Yvens Monfleury (23 points and 14 rebounds) and guard Jadon Cepeda (22 points) had no trouble finding their groove on offense.
However, Montclair State carried some momentum into the second half starting with a 47-39 lead.
The Red Hawks relied heavily on Breeman and rising freshman guard Kieran Flanagan to blow the game wide open. The team went on a 13-3 run, midway through the second half, including a three-pointer and layup by Flanagan, along with eight points from Breeman.
Montclair State’s scoring spree lasted over four minutes, giving them a 70-55 advantage with just over seven minutes remaining.
While Breeman was fantastic all game long, Flanagan was another bright spot for the team as he finished with 10 points in his first collegiate game. Along with freshman guard Amir Williams, the young Red Hawks played with terrific effort and pace on both sides of the ball.
With the younger players already able to step in and provide big plays for Montclair State, it seems like anyone on the team could have had a huge game.
“It’s not gonna be me every night, I’m just looking to share the ball and make the right play for everyone,” Breeman said. “On any night, [someone] else could catch fire, and I can’t wait to be there to share that [moment] with them. We’re gonna rely on a bunch of people all season to get us through this season.”
Next week, the Red Hawks face off against Kean University on Feb. 12 and Feb. 13 to try to bring their win streak to three games.