win 79-44 against New Jersey City University (1-22) on Feb 13. Their latest victory extends their winning streak to seven and the Red Hawks can clinch a first-round New Jersey Athletic Conference Tournament bye in their final game against Stockton University on Feb 17.
The Red Hawks demolished NJCU by 49 points the last time they matched up. Despite the Senior Day festivities for the Gothic Knights’ lone graduating senior, Montclair State released a combination of depth, three-point shooting and defense and NJCU couldn’t compete.
Juniors Rachel Krauss and Zoey Curtis unleashed a salvo from three and combined to score 24 points from beyond the arc. Krauss has been locked, shooting 56.5 percent from three over the course of the last three games, but Curtis’ threes are an added bonus for the Red Hawks. Curtis usually doesn’t have a primary role in the offense, but her three-point shooting stretches the floor and helps Montclair State ease their dependence on Krauss and sophomore Katie Sire on the offensive end.
The game was a blowout. However, the Red Hawks’ bench was given an opportunity and outscored NJCU’s bench by a 34-6 margin. Besides sophomore Erica Snow, no two players have recently expanded their roles more than freshman sisters Kiarra and Tiarra Dillard.
Their impact might not always be reflected in the box scores – as did Tiarra’s season-high 12 points against William Paterson University or Kiarra’s 12-point performance against Rutgers-Newark – but they provide a different offensive element. When either of them are on the court, the Red Hawks push the ball up the floor more quickly and have more space on offense because of the Dillards’ shooting capabilities.
“They are so coachable,” head coach Karin Harvey said about the sisters after the game on Saturday. “Whether they get no minutes, five minutes, 20 minutes, they’re always the same kids on and off the court. [The coaches] were just saying can you imagine them as upperclassmen and how good they are going to be?”
Kiarra and Tiarra Dillard jacked up inefficient jump shots and didn’t play with much self-restraint in the beginning of the season. However, they’ve both reached the point now where they can be trusted hands on offense and provide the team with a spark.
Similarly, the Red Hawks’ bench players have become role players in their own right, rather than being purely bench players that make little impact on the game.
“Our depth is going to be huge,” associate head coach Courtney Cunningham said after the game. “We have a lot of players that can do different things for us. Pretty consistently throughout the season we’ve played 11 [players], but all 13 are going to be huge coming down the stretch.”
Sophomore Taylor Harmon, the team’s first player off the bench as of late, came in and scored nine points on 80 percent shooting from the field.
Additionally, sophomore Yazmine Lacey helped rectify a less-than-stellar rebounding performance by Montclair State. Initially, Lacey allowed an offensive rebound after being subbed in, but she ripped away an offensive rebound on the opposite end the very next play. She went on to provide a spark on the defensive glass and added a team-high six rebounds.
The Red Hawks are riding a seven game winning streak heading into their final game of the season. Montclair State will face Stockton University – who defeated the Red Hawks by 11 in their last match-up – with a chance to clinch a first-round bye and potentially a NJAC title. The game will be hosted at Panzer Athletic Center on Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. and the NJAC Tournament officially begins on Feb. 20.