MONTCLAIR, N.J. (NJCUGothicKnights.com) | After surprisingly scoring just 14 points in the first half, the No. 23 ranked New Jersey City University men's basketball team kept itself in the game with its defense—holding Montclair State University without a field goal for 12 minutes—and went in front late in the second half, only to fall behind again by eight points with under two minutes remaining. Then in a wild finish, NJCU countered with a three with 11 seconds left to pull within one and had a chance to tie it from the line with 2.4 seconds left but was unsuccessful, falling 48-46 in a New Jersey Athletic Conference road battle on January 4 at the Panzer Athletic Center.
NJCU, which cracked the D3hoops.com Top 25 national rankings for the first time in the 18-year history of the poll on Monday, trailed 20-6 with under six minutes left in a woeful shooting first half. NJCU stormed back to lead by four (37-33) with six minutes to go in the second half, only to see Montclair surprise the Knights with a late 12-0 run over a span of 3:14 which included three three-pointers against the No. 1 ranked three-point defense in NCAA Division III, to build a 45-37 lead with 2:11 remaining.
The loss for NJCU (11-2, 5-1 NJAC) was its first since November 20 and snaps a nine-game winning streak. Montclair (7-6, 4-2 NJAC) won despite being held to its lowest scoring output in four years.
NJCU, the No. 3 ranked scoring defense of 416 schools nationally, held an opponent under 60 points for the fifth time in six games and the seventh time this season but couldn't make up for its own shot problems.
The Gothic Knights shot just 5-for-25 in the first half (.200) and 1-for-10 from three-point distance before finishing 29.2 percent from the field (14-48), 20.0 percent from three-point range (4-20) and 58.3 percent at the line (14-24).
Montclair, which started off shooting well in the first half, was limited to 32.6 percent overall (15-46) and 6-of-22 (.273) three-point accuracy. MSU was just 12-of-20 (.600) from the foul stripe.
NJCU which entered the day ranked in the Top 10 nationally in turnover margin and turnovers forced, caused 24 Montclair giveaways and only surrendered 13 itself. Despite the 21-8 margin in points off turnovers, NJCU could not find a way to overcome its lowest point total since November 2014.
With NJCU leading 37-33 with 5:51 left, a three pointer by Justin Porter (5:25, 37-36), two foul shots and a three by Vince Anfield (3:45, 41-37), and a trey by Daniel Ramis with 2:11 left put the Red Hawks in front 45-37 and that seemingly was the end for NJCU.
But with its national ranking likely on the line, the Knights didn't quit. Senior shooting guard Jalen Harris (Brandywine, Md./Gwynn Park (Md.)) hit two foul shots with 1:35 left, senior point guard Ata Robinson (Newark, N.J./East Side) buried a three with 56 seconds to go and after a MSU basket, Harris hit one from the line with 28 on the clock.
Down 47-42, Harris hit the back end of two foul shots. On the ensuing possession, junior guard Ruben Acosta (Bogota, N.J./Bogota) swiped the ball from Ramis and Harris knocked down a three with 11 seconds to go, making it a 47-46 game. After Montclair was fouled and made only the second shot, NJCU had the ball and trailing 48-46, was fouled with 2.4 to go. Robinson went to the line with a chance to tie it, but the typically reliable shooter missed the first and was forced to intentionally miss the second before MSU batted the loose ball away to run out the clock. NJCU missed three of its final four foul shots in the final 30 seconds.
On a day where points were at a premium, reigning NJAC Defensive Player of the Year and graduate student power forward Chinwe Wosu (Jersey City, N.J./University Academy Charter) was NJCU's most consistent player, shooting 5-of-10 for 12 points with five rebounds and two steals. Harris led the Knights with 14 points (7-10 FT). No other NJCU player had more than five points.
Brandon Channer led MSU with 13, including 3-of-4 three-pointers; he was 1-for-7 inside the arc. Jarrett Bogus added 11 points (4-10 FG, 0-5 3FG) while Jordan Roberson had nine points and nine rebounds. Anfield also finished with nine.
Reigning NJAC Coach of the Year Marc Brown on the upset loss: "Montclair came in on a mission. Every one of their players worked harder than every one of ours. They were without a bunch of key guys also. We did not deserve to win. Unfortunately, as soon as we worked our way into the Top 25, we were knocked off. I'm really disappointed in the entire group, especially the captains. When the coaches are more excited about the game than the players, you will always have a major problem. League play is very difficult and not enough guys on this team understand that, at least not yet."
- Series: 167th meeting. Montclair leads the series, dating back to the early 1930s, 93-74.
- Rankings: NJCU is ranked No. 23 nationally by D3hoops.com.
- The 14 first half points were 10 less than NJCU's previous first half season low (24 vs. TCNJ, 12/10; 24 vs. Gettysburg, 12/29).
- The 14 first half points were the least for NJCU since trailing 26-9 at halftime vs. William Paterson on January 27, 2010.
- The 14 points were the least in any half since scoring 11 in the second half at Rutgers-Newark (51-39 loss) on November 28, 2012.
- NJCU's nine-game winning streak was its longest since it won nine in a row from January 24 to February 14, 2011. NJCU had won 10 in a row January 10 to February 10, 2007.
- Jalen Harris scored in double figures for the 37th time in 41 career games as a Gothic Knight. He has 94 career three-pointers.
- NJCU's previous season scoring low was 54 points in a 54-52 win over TCNJ on December 10.
- The 46 points were the least for NJCU since a 62-46 loss vs. Rutgers-Newark on November 25, 2014.
- Montclair State's previous season low was 55 points at Rutgers-Newark (loss, 62-55, December 3).
- The 48 points were the least for Montclair since a 60-43 home loss vs. William Paterson on January 23, 2013.
NJCU puts its 5-0 home mark on the line on Saturday, January 7 (3 p.m.) when it hosts Rowan University at the John J. Moore Athletics and Fitness Center (Charlie Brown Court). The Profs come in at 9-4 (4-2 NJAC) and winners of three in a row. NJCU has won the last three meetings. It will be the 119th known meeting in a length series that is now even all-time, 59-59.