It was a disappointing outing for Montclair State University against Stockton University on Feb. 3 as they dropped their first loss since Jan. 19.
It was their fourth away game in the last six overall, and Stockton was not very kind to them in their own building. The Red Hawks had trouble all day containing Kashuan Barnes who lit up the defense for 37 points on 14 shots in 40 minutes. He shot an astounding 5-9 from three-point range and was the reason Stockton was ultimately able to pull away with a crushing defeat over Montclair State.
Montclair would open up the game climbing out of an 11-4 hole they dug themselves into early on. They would overcome this deficit and maintain a strong advantage from behind the arc thanks to the likes of Joseph Radi.
At the break, Montclair State was holding an advantage in just about every statistical category you could find. Up 39-30, they were outscoring Stockton in the paint, as they have done to most opponents all season long, 14-8, outrebounding them at 22-20 and had led for roughly 14 minutes of the whole first half. It looked like this one could get ugly quick with the clip the Red Hawks were shooting at. They were 50 percent from behind the three-point line and shot 15 of 31 from the field heading to the break.
The start of the second half would look much like the start Montclair State put in against Rowan University a week ago where they went on a tremendous run to open up the frame. However, it would not be Montclair State handing it out to their opponent today. Instead, Stockton let them into it.
Stockton came storming out of the gates and went on a 13-5 run to get them back with one point four minutes into the second half. This is where the player of the game would take over. Kashuan Barnes of Stockton had an afternoon to remember as he heated up like a stove top early in the second half.
Barnes’ sweet left handed stroke would be the difference in this game. Not only him, but also the entire Stockton team would begin a barrage of field goals and three-pointers to get them back in front.
With 11 and a half minutes left, Barnes kept Stockton down three. Shortly after at 55-52, the Ospreys’ other big-threat guard, Zawan Johnson, would tie the game with an ensuing three, making it 57-57.
The Red Hawks and Stockton exchanged buckets as Radi continued his solid game scoring by hitting a three-pointer to give them back the lead at 60-57.
“Anything you can do, I can do better,” Johnson said.
He hit two consecutive threes to tie it back up at 60-60.
After a miss from the free-throw line directly following that, the Stockton Ospreys would regain their first lead since early in the first half at 62-61 on Barnes’ jumper. He would go on to score the next five points for Stockton after hitting another three-point jumper and field goal to give him his 30th point of the outing.
Montclair State would conversely go on to shoot one of 13 from deep in the second half after their stellar performance in the first half of this game. Radi, in 24 minutes would end with 14 points and four rebounds on the day while the sharp-eyed, big Kaan Yilmaz would rack up seven rebounds and five assists to go along with six points. Jarrett Bogus also contributed nine points to compliment his eight rebounds.
Head coach Marlon Sears was not happy at all with the way the Montclair State Red Hawks were playing defense. Their lack-luster effort on closing out on Barnes’ three-point attempts was a determining factor in the outcome of this game.
As always, the Red Hawks were able to keep the score in check but it was their defense at the end of the day that failed them. They also struggled at the charity stripe late in the game, which was not like them. The one on one opportunities from the line is where it hurt the most because they were not able to attempt the second free-throw after missing their first ones.
Late in this game, Montclair thought they were back in it, but Barnes would hit a dagger to keep the lead for Stockton. Myles Mitchell-White had another double-digit scoring outing with 20 points, but it did not look like Montclair State had any sort of feasible chance as time winded down.
Mitchell-White got the lead for Montclair State one last time with five minutes left after a beautiful coast-to-coast finger roll. Jordan Taylor of Stockton would then hit another three-pointer and open up a 74-70 lead, and the Ospreys would never look back.
Although it did not matter in the outcome of this one, I was brought to question the late game coaching decision of Sears. With 39 seconds left in the game and his team down 81-79, the Red Hawks intentionally fouled Stockton to send them to the line.
Although there was the possibility of missing one of the two free-throws, it did not make much sense to not just play 30 shot-clock seconds of defense to see if they could make a stop and retain possession with around nine seconds left, down two.
They would however be down 83-79 after Kelvin Tull sank two from the free-throw line with 33 seconds remaining in regulation. That would be the closest Montclair State would come against Stockton as they finished up on a 6-2 run after that point, ending in an 89-81 defeat for Montclair State.
It is safe to say Montclair was outplayed down the stretch of this game. It was something that you have not seen from this team for most of the season. They have been a team that is known for putting the daggers in opponents instead of it being handed to them.
Their lack of effort on closing out the three-point line along with the play of Kashuan Barnes is the reason they were handed their sixth loss of the season and fourth one away from home. They have been an average team on the road this year (4-4) compared to the way they have played at home (9-1). That is something they need to improve on as the season winds down because if they are not going to be a top three seed in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) tournament, then they are going to have to find ways of getting it done away from the Panzer Athletic Center.
It does not get any easier after this one as they will take on 17-4 overall and 11-3 in the conference New Jersey City University next Wednesday at Panzer at 8 p.m. It will be a tough test and huge game for these Red Hawks as they look to bounce back and stay in the hunt for a top seed in the NJAC.