After coming off two big wins against William Paterson University, the Montclair State University men’s basketball team faced their first true test of the 2021 season. The team faced off with Kean University and had their worst night defensively, giving up 90 points. The Cougars also outscored the Red Hawks 22-3 on fast break points.
With little time between back-to-back matchups, the Red Hawks had to put the loss past them quickly. Less than 24 hours later they rebounded, beating Kean 76-61.
Head coach Justin Potts gave credit to his players for making key changes in such a short time to prepare.
“They were able to adjust on the fly this morning, we put a couple new things in defensively and they did that,” Potts said.
The Red Hawks starting lineup was able to shoot the ball more proficiently, but the big impact came off the bench from a player who has torched Kean in the past.
Junior point guard Myles Mitchell-White contributed heavily after sitting out the first matchup the night before.
With the Red Hawks down early 18-9, Mitchell-White came off the bench and took control of the game; assisting his teammates, diving for loose balls and getting to the basket and scoring.
Mitchell-White ended with 19 points, shooting 4-for-6 from three and lighting a much needed spark from the bench.
In his first big breakout game since transferring back to Montclair State, Mitchell-White credits his teammates and the energy he has felt throughout.
“The energy and aura around the team is amazing and I feed off of it,” Mitchell-White said. “Seeing me dive on the floor today is just easy for me to feed off that energy from everybody.”
Potts explained the impact Mitchell-White had after missing the first matchup the night before.
“He was able to play real well today,” Potts said. “It gave us another body, getting him back out there was great.”
The Red Hawks were able to spread the ball around quite well. Four players scored in double figures, including senior guard/forward Irving Callender IV and junior forward Steve Breeman contributing with double-doubles.
Late in the second half, Kean started to dig into Montclair State’s lead before Callender IV closed the door with an open three to make a 69-53 game with 3:22 remaining. He finished the game shooting 3-for-4 from the three-point line, improving from his 1-for-6 three-point shooting the night before.
Callender IV talked about his shooting and staying aggressive, even when struggling.
“The coaching staff and my teammates push me to keep shooting even if I’m on or off,” Callender IV said. “Coach always says don’t pass up open looks. I feel like I put the work in to make shots and I stayed focused today.”
With the bounce back win, Potts has a lot of trust in his seniors and knew the adversity would be faced head-on from the top down.
“We rely on the upperclassmen to set the stage and they did a remarkable job, I trust the guys we got,” Potts said. “I love being in the locker room with them and I knew they’d bounce back today.”
With half the season already played the Red Hawks are making their final push to the postseason. They won their last two series in back-to-back weekends against Kean University and Rutgers University – Newark. The Red Hawks sit second in the New Jersey Athletic Conference standings with a 5-1 overall record heading into next week’s series against New Jersey City University.
Coach Potts discussed how executing the little things down the stretch will help the Red Hawks make a deep run into the playoffs.
“Take care of the basketball, do a better job on the defensive end and I think we will put ourselves in position to play with anybody in the league,” Potts said.