Montclair State University dropped their third loss in a row this Saturday in Ewing, New Jersey. It came off an 11-point first half lead which would be squandered early into the second half of play.
Coming into the game, Montclair State was sitting a game back of The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) for third place in the conference, but they fell two games back from them and now sit with a 16-8 overall record and 10-7 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). TCNJ would also complete the season series sweep over the struggling Red Hawks on their Senior Day at the Lions arena.
As advertised for most of this season, the Red Hawks jumped out to an early lead while controlling the pace of play and time of possession. It’s much accredited to head coach Marlon Sears who seems to have his team raring to go as the games begin but has small issues closing teams out.
Out of the eight losses accumulated by Montclair this season, four of them have them come at the expense of a halftime lead. The Red Hawks would be outmatched against another top scorer, Eric Murdock, who dropped 39 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. This was the second player in three games that put 30 points on Montclair State.
Montclair State would begin the game on a 11-2 run getting Jarrett Bogus into the action early. The ball-dominant forward would have his way on the inside much of the first half and with his efficiency from the field would enter half time with 12 points.
As the game got deeper into the first 10 minutes of play, Montclair would take a 23-17 lead thanks to the likes of three-point specialist Joseph Radi, who started the day hitting his first two-three’s. With the strong play of Kaan Yilmaz and Myles Mitchell-White, Montclair State would outrebound their opponent as usual, and with seven minutes to go in the half, they would hold a 17-7 advantage on the boards. Myles Mitchell-White was able to come one rebound shy of a double-double on the afternoon to go along with his 15 points.
As time winded down in the first half, Montclair would jump out to their biggest lead of the game at 35-24 with around five minutes left. However, TCNJ would close the half on a 15-11 run tightening the score up at 46-39 at the break.
TCNJ went absolutely crazy from three-point range in the second half. After only hitting four three-pointers in the first half, they would come out and hit eight of their first nine attempts from behind the arc. Thanks to the play of Eric Murdock, who made the most of his last possible home game, they went on for another 19 points in the second half and finished with an astounding 39 points on the day.
TCNJ’s 20-10 run in the first nine minutes of the second half would give them a long-awaited 59-56 lead. The Red Hawks were outplayed after the intermission and it showed. They did not close out on defense and had no answer to the play of Murdock. He was hot and the Red Hawks weren’t. Down by 11 in this game, TCNJ’s resiliency really showed, something displayed by the Red Hawks for many games this season. The sloppiness and lack of defensive effort, would doom Montclair State, much different from the way they began this game.
With just about 10 minutes left to play, TCNJ would hold a six-point advantage at 61-56 and never look back. The lead would grow and grow as they opened up the largest by any side in the game and had this one out-of-reach for the Red Hawks at 79-66. At this point TCNJ was 10-15 from three-point land, after their miserable 4-12 start.
Three minutes left to play, the Red Hawks would cut the deficit down to nine but that’s as close as they would get. The game would end on an emphatic slam with 41 seconds left, and be the exclamation point on the afternoon for a bad ending by the Montclair faithful.
The final buzzer sounded, and the Red Hawks would drop their third straight, after a five-game winning streak. Bogus would lead the way with his 16 points and six rebounds, while Jovanni Chatham had a very strong outing with his 15 and nine rebounds. Montclair would finish the game shooting 28-66 from the field, and go 10-31 in the second half of play. Montclair would as usual hold the edge in rebounds at 44-30 and points in the paint by a landslide, at 42-22.
With just one game left for Montclair State on the regular season schedule, they will close this season out at home on Wednesday night against Rutgers-Camden at 8 p.m. The Red Hawks look to be locked in as the fourth seed entering the conference tournament, which begins Saturday, Feb. 17, at home. Coach Sears and his men will look to end this season on a high note and make sure they grab the proper momentum heading into the NJAC tournament.