Women’s Basketball Loses to the Kean Cougars in a NJAC Playoff Rematch

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Published December 11, 2019
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The Montclarion
Senior guard Cerys MacLelland fights off Kean defenders while dribbling the ball. Chris Krusberg | The Montclarion

The Montclair State University women’s basketball team’s loss to the Kean Cougars could be described in one word: turnovers.

The Red Hawks committed 24 turnovers en route to a 71-60 loss to Kean in a packed house in Panzer Athletic Center on Saturday, Dec. 7. The loss drops the Red Hawks to a 4-3 (2-1 New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC)), while the win brings the Cougars to the top spot in the NJAC with a 5-1 record (3-0 NJAC).

The biggest storyline heading into this matchup was if the Red Hawks would avenge last season’s NJAC playoff loss to the Cougars, which broke the Red Hawks streak of six consecutive NJAC championships and national tournament appearances. Coach Karin Harvey was adamant that her squad treated this game like any other NJAC game.

Early in the game, the Cougars would establish their brand of basketball by getting out in transition and forcing turnovers. They would jump out to an early lead thanks in part to Kean’s duo guards sophomore Shannon McCoy and senior Payce Lange. The Cougars took an early 19-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.

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Senior guard Cerys MacLelland goes for a layup.
Chris Krusberg | The Montclarion

The Red Hawks would begin to settle into their offense more in the second quarter as they began with a 16-7 run to bring them right back in the game. Senior guard Cerys Macelland would nail a huge jump shot to narrow Kean’s lead to 26-24. She finished with 15 points, leading the team in scoring for the game.

Costly turnovers would doom the Red Hawks in the last five minutes of the quarter, leading a Cougar run of their own. A jumper by sophomore guard Sarah Olivero would cap off a 10-2 run to push the Cougar lead to 36-26 with 59 seconds remaining.

The Cougars would go into the second half with a 36-31 lead over the Red Hawks.

Head Coach Karin Harvey believes that many of these turnovers were self-inflicted and that some of the credit should go to the Cougar defense.

“We were a little too casual with the ball, [especially] when we would reverse it and they would jump the passing lane or we wouldn’t meet the pass,” Coach Harvey said. “But they were more aggressive and physical during the game and we didn’t match their intensity.”

The third quarter would continue to see the Cougars push the ball at a very fast pace, keeping the Red Hawk defense off balance. Kean would again stretch their lead to double digits when junior guard Ashley Hunt would nail a jumper with 3:38 remaining in the quarter to make it a 48-37 Kean lead.

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Freshman guard Nickie Carter shoots the ball.
Chris Krusberg | The Montclarion

The Red Hawks refused to lay down. Freshman guard Nickie Carter, who is averaging a team-leading 12.7 points per game, would drop nine of her 14 points in the last 3:30 of the quarter to bring the Red Hawks back in the game. Carter would cap off her sensational quarter with a huge and-one to make it 52-46 with 58 seconds left.

Coach Harvey was impressed with the way Carter stepped up as a scoring weapon for the Red Hawks in this game with star forward Alex McKinnon (six points, 3-10 field goals) struggling for most of the game.

“She was a little bit more aggressive in the second half and I thought she did an amazing job today,” Coach Harvey said. “Every game is a learning opportunity for her, but she’s super talented with the way she can shoot the three and get to the rim.”

The Cougars would maintain a 54-47 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but the Red Hawks continued to fight. Carter would dish a beautiful pass to sophomore guard Rylee Mulligan for a huge three-pointer to bring the Cougar lead down to 58-56.

Carter detailed what led to the Red Hawks fourth-quarter surge.

“We realized we could’ve been in this game the entire time if we just worked harder,” Carter said. “We began to match their pace and not [allow] them to control us.”

This surge was short-lived, as the Cougars would make one final run to seal the game. A 12-4 game-winning run was capped off by a great pass from McCoy would set up an easy layup for Olivero to make it a 68-60 game with 48 seconds remaining in the game, clinching a Cougar victory.

The Red Hawks have started off slow in their last few games, but have found ways to win them. Despite the Red Hawks resilience in playing until the final whistle, this game may serve as a reminder to this team that they will have to play all four quarters to win against tougher NJAC opponents.

“We need to start the way we finish,” Carter said. “The last two games we’ve been getting away with slow starts, but it’s not going to cut it for these tougher NJAC teams.”

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