From the moment tip-off occurred, both the Montclair State University men’s basketball team and The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) came out with a high level of physicality and high energy on defense and offense. The Red Hawks from the opening tip went away from their traditional 3-2 and press defense.
Senior guard Keyon Pryce explained the strategy,
“We had to switch it up on the defensive side of the ball,” Pryce said. “Teams were getting familiar with our usual 3-2 defense, so we wanted to give them a different look on the side of the ball.”
This was a wise decision from the coaching staff since the Lions tend to get a majority of their points in post-up situations and off-dribble penetration.
Early on, the game went back and forth as both teams tried to gain an advantage over the other. As expected, TCNJ started off by establishing themselves in the paint and had success at finding out different ways to get the ball inside despite the Red Hawks’ physical defense.
Montclair State came out playing balanced basketball. Players were often making the extra pass and passing up slightly contested shots to find the open man. Senior guard Devin Cooper made the Red Hawks’ first three-pointer of the afternoon. Three-point shooting would play a huge role as the game later progressed.
The game was close as both teams traded stops and buckets. At this point, no team had an advantage on the scoreboard higher than four points. It wasn’t until Mike Jackson nailed in a three-pointer with four minutes and 25 seconds remaining to give the Red Hawks a 26-21 lead over TCNJ.
TCNJ allowed Montclair State to keep the game close even when the Red Hawks started missing some shots. TCNJ had seven turnovers in the first half compared to the Red Hawks who only had one. This was a result of Montclair State’s defense but also because of carelessness on TCNJ’s part.
Senior forward Steve Breeman shared one of the team’s core values.
“One of our team’s keywords is the word relentless,” Breeman said. “We like to be relentless on the defensive end and apply pressure. We play solid half-court defense, play good team defense and we keep pushing the envelope every single day.”
Montclair State shot 50% from the field and shot efficiently from deep, shooting 9-20 from three-point territory. By halftime, the Red Hawks had tripled TCNJ’s three-point attempts and tripled their three-point makes. TCNJ shot 3-6 from long range in the first half.
The first half came to an end with Montclair State having a 43-33 advantage.
The only negative of the afternoon for Montclair State came when senior guard Cooper suffered an apparent leg injury in the second half while trying to make a play on the offensive end. He was able to put little to no pressure on his leg and had to be helped off the court by teammates and Montclair State staff members.
As a result of Cooper being down for the remainder of the game, it put more pressure on the other guards to take on his offensive responsibilities.
Breeman scored the Red Hawks’s first three of the second half with 17:05 left in the game. Breeman proceeded to score 13 points in the second half and had a good all-around performance. He finished the game with 21 points and six rebounds.
Montclair State stuck with their man-to-man defensive strategy down the stretch but did press more than they did earlier in the game. The Red Hawks were able to cause some turnovers in the backcourt against TCNJ as a result of their press.
The Red Hawks finished the game shooting 42% from beyond the arc while attempting 38 shots from long range.
Montclair State improves to 8-0 on the season and 4-0 in the conference and has another home game against Centenary University at 1 p.m. on Dec.17 at Panzer Athletic Center.