UNION, N.J. (2/18/12) – Junior guard Mike Shaughnessy knocked down a three-pointer with less than three seconds remaining to lift the Kean University men's basketball team to a 55-53 win over Rutgers-Newark in the opening round of the New Jersey Athletic Conference playoffs on Saturday afternoon.
The Cougars (7-19), the second seed from the South Division, erased a double-digit second-half deficit to advance to the NJAC semifinals, where Kean will face William Paterson University, the top seed from the North Division, on Wednesday, February 22. It is the first NJAC playoff win for the Cougars since 1991-92.
The NJAC North Division third-seeded Scarlet Raiders (14-12) had a chance at a pair of desperation shots in the final seconds, as Rutgers-Newark falls in the opening round of the playoffs for the first time in six trips to the playoffs since 2005.
Trailing 40-30 with 13:35 remaining, the Cougars scored 10 straight points, as Shaughnessy tied the game with a layup with 6:44 left. Rutgers-Newark senior guard Greg Moore halted the run with a three-pointer, however Kean junior guard Branly Cadet responded with a three-pointer to tie the game at 43-43 with 5:49 to go.
Sophomore guard Michael Burton gave the Cougars their first lead of the game at 44-43 with 1-of-2 foul shots, before Scarlet Raiders senior guard Pedro Burgos knocked down a three-pointer for the 46-44 lead with 4:43 remaining. A layup by Kean sophomore Kyle Latorre knotted the game up once more and Kean would take the 49-48 lead on a three-pointer by Cadet with just 3:14 to go.
Burgos answered with a three to regain the lead for the Scarlet Raiders, before Latorre once again tied the game with a lay-up. Both teams had an opportunity to take the lead on alternating possession and freshman forward Christian Garcia would eventually give Rutgers-Newark a 53-51 lead with a layup with just 1:26 to go. After a Kean turnover, the Cougars were able to secure the defensive rebound on the next Scarlet Raider possession with 21 seconds left, and Shaughnessy would drain the three-pointer from the right-side with just 2.4 seconds remaining for the 54-53 edge.
Latorre intercepted the long inbounds pass by the Scarlet Raiders with 1.0 second left and would knock down 1-of-2 free throws on the ensuing foul to extend the lead to two points. After a Scarlet Raider timeout following the defensive rebound, Rutgers-Newark once again inbounded the ball past midcourt, however the desperation shot was off the mark, as the Cougars will appear in the NJAC semifinals for the second straight season.
Rutgers-Newark led the entire first half, leading by as many as 11 points at 20-9 on a jumper by senior forward Jeremiah Rivers with 6:44 left in the opening half. Kean answered with an 8-2 run to pull within five points following a three-point play by Latorre and would cut the deficit to three points on three different occasions, before Rutgers-Newark took the 31-26 lead at the break.
Latorre led the Cougars with eight points and four rebounds in the first half, while Garcia knocked down all four of his shots from the floor and both free throws for a team-leading 10 points for the Scarlet Raiders.
Rutgers-Newark opened the half with an 8-2 run to quickly extend the lead to double-digits following a three-point play by junior guard Al'Don Muhammad. Burgos would give the Scarlet Raiders the 40-30 lead with 13:35 remaining, before Shaughnessy ignited the 10-0 run for Kean with a layup.
Latorre led the Cougars with 15 points, hitting 5-of-7 field goals and 5-of-7 foul shots, while also adding a game-high nine rebounds. Shaughnessy finished with a career-high 13 points, hitting 6-of-8 shots from the floor, while Burton knocked down 5-of-7 shots for 12 points.
As a team, the Cougars knocked down 21-of-45 shots (46.7 percent) and only committed eight turnovers, while Rutgers-Newark hit half of its shots (21-of-42).
Garcia led Rutgers-Newark with 14 points, while Burgos and Moore each added 11 points.