It’s not often that you see an altercation arise after the buzzer sounds, but that was the case between Rutgers-Newark and Montclair State University men’s basketball team. After 40 minutes of physical, grind-it-out play, the winning team felt a sigh of relief. The losing team? Heartbroken.
The Red Hawks will be at risk of losing a home playoff game as they suffered a 66-63 defeat against the Rutgers-Newark Scarlet Raiders on Wednesday at Panzer Athletic Center.
Offensively, the Red Hawks got off to a rough start. Graduate student/forward Irving Callender IV was responsible for the first four points of the game, but would later be subbed out at the 16-minute mark due to two early fouls. His absence was noticeable. Through the first seven minutes of the game, the only points scored on the Red Hawks side were by Callender IV, who hadn’t been in the game for four minutes.
An offense that looked like it needed a tunnel of light got a much-needed spark from junior guard Greg Eck, who ended the Red Hawks’ scoring drought by hitting a three at the top of the key, another one on the wing. He would also score a fast break lay-in on what looked like a broken play, as freshman guard Mike Jackson barely saved an overthrown ball by Callender IV on the baseline. Eck scored 11 of his 14 points in the first half alone. The Red Hawks trailed the Scarlet Knights 21-25 at the half.
Eck, who had been the Red Hawks’ first-half star, started in the second half, but it was ultimately another name who’d shine bright in the second half: none other than senior forward Steven Breeman. Rutgers-Newark had lost him on the court a couple of times, which led to him scoring nine points from downtown in the second half alone. Breeman finished the game with 20 points.
The Red Hawks were rolling on offense throughout the second half, but after each big basket they scored, Rutgers-Newark had an answer. Abe Kromah had 18 points for Rutgers-Newark and had timely mid-range pull-up jumpers.
With the Scarlet Raiders clinging to a 61-58 lead with under a minute remaining in the game, the Red Hawks had multiple breakdowns on the defensive end down the stretch, with the defining moment of the game being a defensive lapse that had left Russell Ayala open for a corner three.
He missed the shot, but Quincy Rutherford came swooping in for the offensive rebound, passed it out to Kromah and with 17 seconds left, was fouled. He knocked down both free throws.
Down five points, Eck would hit a desperation three and cut down the deficit to two points with 4.3 seconds left. This Herculean effort would be slain by the likes of Kromah, who came up clutch again on both of his free throws, making the lead four points with 3.1 seconds left. In hopes to have a prayer answered, sophomore guard Kieran Flannagan attempted a full-court three, in which he was fouled.
Had he made the shot, Montclair State would have had a chance to tie the game. But the miss meant it was all but over.
After the buzzer sounded, both teams lined up to give their respects and say good game to each other. However, it was anything but that. Tensions flared, players fed into it and it soon looked like a physical altercation was about to take place. However, both coaching staffs were able to calm their players down and were escorted back into the locker rooms.
After this loss, the Red Hawks drop to 12-8 overall and 8-7 within the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). Their next contest will be their annual senior night game at Panzer Athletic Center on Feb. 12 versus the New Jersey City University (NJCU) Gothic Knights at 1 p.m.