After a flurry of points early in the second half, the Montclair State University men’s basketball team did not look back on their way to a crushing 91-68 victory over the Brooklyn College Bulldogs.
Montclair State led their opponent for all but 47 seconds during the highly anticipated season opener Thursday night.
Graduate student Irving Callender IV put up a double-double, scoring 16 points along with 12 rebounds. He had a breakout in his second-half performance and was one of the key factors in the Red Hawks’ win.
Callender says he was determined to take over after a relatively slow first half.
“In the first half, I probably had three shot attempts,” Callender said. “But when the second half [began], my teammates [talked to] me. I started with easy buckets off the backboard, and [everything] just came easy after that.”
The guard was just as effective on the defensive side. Alongside nine defensive rebounds, Callender had a critical steal one minute into the second half that set the tone for the rest of the game.
Senior forward Steven Breeman also impressed in his first game back after a season-ending injury last season. He led Montclair State in scoring with 17 points and totaled six rebounds. Breeman was perfect from the 3-point line, going 3-3.
Senior guard Devin Cooper scored 14 points, giving the Red Hawks three players that recorded double-digit points.
Throughout the game, the Red Hawks outhustled their opponents. Montclair State played an aggressive, full-court press defense for all 40 minutes of the game. The team consistently double-teamed key players, causing 17 turnovers and 10 steals throughout the contest.
Montclair State was clearly the more energized team. Nearly every Brooklyn College shot attempt was contested. Even in the late stages of the game, players dove for loose balls and fought for rebounds.
Head coach Justin Potts says their offseason strength and conditioning program paid dividends in this early season matchup.
“They worked really hard [during the offseason],” Potts said. “We’re trying to be the best condition team in the region and hopefully in the country.”
Callender agreed that the intensive training contributed to the victory.
“We played a lot in the offseason,” Callender said. “Individually, I worked hard [because] this is my last go-around. We were in the weight room four times a week and we played pickup [games] four times a week, [so] that played a big part in all of this.”
The team’s depth cannot be overlooked. Montclair State’s bench is stocked with hungry, aggressive players that can come in the game and maintain the same intensity levels the starters bring to the hardwood. They accounted for 34 of the team’s points.
Potts explained the bench was a key part of Thursday’s victory.
“Our guys played really hard,” Potts said. “We try to play fast, and when [the starters] are tired, we can [sit] them and let the next guy come in. We showed that we have depth [tonight].”
The Red Hawks are already looking ahead to Saturday’s matchup against DeSales University. Potts says he wants to see more consistency out of the younger players in the lineup to further support upperclassmen like Callender and Breeman.
“Its really just about being consistent,” Potts said. “We have so many young guys. We need to learn what makes us successful. We need to lengthen the [list of things] we are good at and shorten the [list of things] we’re not as good at. Saturday is going to be a big test.”