Men’s Basketball Rally Not Quite Enough in Tight Loss at Kean
William Paterson University
02/04/2023 | 15:00
February 04 (Saturday) / 3:00 p.m.
William Paterson University
UNION, NJ — The TCNJ men’s basketball team nearly came out of a 13-point hole in the final seven minutes before host Kean narrowly managed to stave off the Lions’ unlikely rally for a 80-76 win in an eventual NJAC playoff preview on Wednesday night.
The Lions never led and dropped as many as 17 points in the first half before dropping to under four (55-51) with just under 12 minutes to go. Kean pushed the margin to 69-56 with 6:59 remaining, but TCNJ never left and cut the deficit to two in the closing seconds. The Cougars, however, made two free throws and held on for an important win in the league’s playoff pursuit.
Kean (16-5, 9-5) now has a stranglehold on fourth in the NJAC standings. TCNJ (7-14, 6-8) is one game ahead of Ramapo for the fifth seed.
The Lions got off to a nightmarish start, scoreless for the first four minutes and changed as Kean took a 10-0 lead. TCNJ came off the mat and scored 14-8 on a Matthew Okorie dunk, but Kean quickly came back with an extended run to go ahead 30-13 with 6:28 left in the first half.
The Cougars continued to play well up front and held a 45-30 advantage by the minute of the second half. That’s when the Lions stepped in, going 13-1 with three 3-pointers from Jason Larranaga, the last of the trio making it 46-43 and cutting a dozen points from the deficit. in just three minutes. .
It was still just a four-point (55-51) Kean lead when Pat Higgins buried a 3-pointer, but Jailen Jamison knocked down a 3-pointer as part of a 13-4 push that handed the Cougars in charge at 69. -56 with only 6:59 to go. Somehow, the Lions are almost back.
Higgins hit a 3-pointer then took a layup on a steal to cap a 9-2 response that cut Kean’s lead to 71-65 with 4:13 to go. After Danny Bodine rebounded and ran to the floor for a rocking dunk on a Higgins feed, it was just a four-point game (73-69) at 2:20.
Jim Clemente split a pair on the line to close at 75-72 with 1:06 left, and the Lions forced a miss on Kean’s initial attempt, but Griffin Barker fended off the miss for a crucial bucket. Clemente scored inside on the ensuing trip and Larranaga drove for a float in the paint to cut it to 78-76 with 8.3 ticks visible. Letrell West, however, made both free throws at the other end to get back to a two possession lead with the remaining points of the game.
Jamison and Heem Burno scored 18 apiece to lead four in double figures for Kean.
Higgins hit four 3-pointers en route to a team-high 17 points and dished out six assists, and Larranaga finished with 13.
Anthony DiCaro recorded 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists along with three steals, while rookie Matthew Solomon paired 11 points with seven boards on 4-for-5 shooting. Bodine was 4 for 6 from the floor for eight points and Trevor Covey hit a pair of triples.
The teams shot nearly identical percentages (51.0 for TCNJ and 50.9 for Kean), and TCNJ made 11 3-pointers to just four for the Cougars. Kean, meanwhile, held a 44-30 advantage in the paint and made it a handful more at the foul line (18 of 25 to 13 of 18 for the Lions).
TCNJ is back home to take on William Paterson on Saturday. Tipping is set at 3 p.m.