Men’s team fails in NJAC semifinals

By Gerald Lima

The Kean University Men’s Basketball team defeated New Jersey City University 79-78 in an overtime thriller at Harwood Arena on Kean University’s campus.

The Gothic Knights of New Jersey City missed a potential game-winning free throw, which lead to Senior Guard, Ali Mix making a clutch lay-up to tie the game and send it to overtime.

In overtime, Senior Forward Kyle Latorre made a lay up with seconds remaining on the shot clock, which ultimately became the game-winning basket for the Cougars, sending them home victorious.

“Down the end there to get one stop, our 1-3-1 has been our best defense all year,” Head Coach Rob Kurzinsky said. “That’s what we went with, and it’s tough to go with that at the end because you may give up a clean look from the perimeter, but our kids hung in and were able to get a stop.”

The Cougars moved on in the tournament, but eventually fell one point short in the NJAC semifinals against the Richard Stockton Ospreys, 64-63.

“Our mindset remains the same with each game. We go into each day 0-0 and prepare as well and as hard as we can to get to 1-0 each night,” Kurzinsky said. “With Stockton we needed to limit their athletic advantage; statistically the two areas of emphasis were to limit their offensive rebounds
and limit our turnovers.”

The Cougars started the game hot shooting 80 percent from the floor, including five of six from beyond the arc.  The Cougars headed into halftime with a 38-30 lead over the Ospreys.

With 10 minutes remaining in the game the Ospreys went ahead with a three-pointer, which was its first lead all night.

With a minute left in the game the Cougars were ahead by one point and had a defensive stop down the stretch, but on the next possession, Ospreys Senior Guard Kevin Johnson drove it the length of the court to lay it up, and put his team up by one.

“Our guys did everything we asked of them, they executed their game plan and put themselves in position to win,” Kurzinsky said. “There was nothing more our players could have done, I could have organized us better on our last defensive possession.  Again, give their kids credit for making a big time play at the end.”

The Cougars had the last possession of the game with the final seconds counting down, but couldn’t get the winning bucket to go down.

“Our players put themselves in a position to win the game, unfortunately for us their point guard made a big shot with 9 seconds left,” Kurzinsky said. “We had an opportunity to win it on our last possession Stockton did a good job defending and we missed a contested shot. It was a tremendous college basketball game.  Give them credit they just happened to make one more play than we did.”

The Cougars will now just wait for an invitation to the ECAC tournament.

“Hopefully this is not the end of our season. The ECAC bids come out late Monday afternoon.  We are hopeful of getting an invitation to the ECAC tournament,” Kurzinsky said. “Our program is based around the process of continual improvement.  Whether it is tomorrow or next season we expect our guys to be motivated to be a little better today than they were yesterday.”

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