JERSEY CITY, N.J. (NJCUGothicKnights.com) | The New Jersey City University women's basketball team (0-6) had a very strong showing against the two-time reigning Division III national champions, No. 7 ranked Amherst College on Sunday, December 2 on Coach Charlie Brown Court at the John J. Moore Athletics and Fitness Center. The Gothic Knights scored led three times in the opening quarter and were able to hang around the Mammoths (5-1) most of the afternoon, eventually falling, 78-52.
"I was really pleased with the team's energy and heart today," head coach Patrick Devaney said. "I wasn't too pleased with how we ran our offense, but I love to see that they gave it their all and really accepted the challenge put before them."
Senior guard Marajiah Bacon (Neptune, NJ/Neptune) scored a season-high 29 points against the Mammoths, who are currently ranked No. 7 in the country by D3hoops.com and were the nation's preseason No. 1 ranked program. Amherst sports a preseason Second Team and Third-Team All-American in their starting lineup in junior guard Hannah Fox (Plymouth Meeting, Pa.) and junior guard Madeline Eck (Rye, N.Y.). Bacon added six rebounds, three steals, and an assist, while turning the ball over only twice. Her aggressive attacking of the basket drew nine fouls in the game.
"Ray, she's different," Devaney said of his senior captain. "She's what you call a 100 percent basketball competitor. She just puts us on her back, and we've been following her lead."
For the Mammoths, it was a balanced attack, as always, with five players reaching double-digits, including both preseason All-Americans. Fox—the preseason Second-Team All-American—led Amherst with 18 points and stuffed the stat sheet with four rebounds, four assists, four blocks, three steals, and only one turnover while drawing seven fouls. Eck—their Third-Team All-American—had 11 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.
Junior wing Cam Hendricks (Glastonbury, Conn.) was the team's second-leading scorer with 14 points and eight rebounds, adding a game-high +/- of 27. Freshman forward Jade DuVal (Cleveland, Ohio) had a strong performance off the bench with 13 points and eight boards and freshman forward Dani Valdez (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) finished with 10 points and six rebounds.
With three 6-footers and no player under 5-foot-7 on the roster, Amherst was able to outrebound NJCU, 48-29, including 16-7 on the offensive glass.
NJCU scored the first points of the game, as Bacon made a runner in the lane on their first possession, a sign of her strong game to come. Bacon scored all 11 of the Knights' points in the first quarter, as the team held tough, leading on two separate occasions and finishing the quarter down only 14-11.
"Yesterday kind of led into today," Devaney noted. "Against Rowan, we really brought the defensive pressure, and that carried over into today. They really went all out."
In the second quarter, Amherst got hot, using a 16-0 run in the middle of the period to push their lead out to 21 by the break (37-16). The Mammoth's notoriously stout defense held NJCU scoreless from a Zyearah Taylor-Gaston (Jersey City, NJ/Marist (via St. Anthony)) three at the 8:33 mark of the second until a Miesha Bacon (Neptune, NJ/Neptune) free throw in the final minute of the half, turning a 19-14 game into a 35-14 margin.
However, the Knights did not use a rough second quarter as an excuse to roll over against a top-tier opponent. In fact, they came right after the Mammoths in the second half, with a successful press leading to 11 second half turnovers for Amherst to just three second half turnovers for NJCU. The Knights were never able to get the deficit under 19. Unlike many games Amherst plays, it was never able to get the lead over 29 points. AC outscored NJCU, 36-14, in the paint and its bench outscored the Knight reserves, 22-3.
"One of the reasons I reached out to the reigning two-time champs was I wanted our girls to see the level we have to get to," Devaney explained. "This game is going to make them realize that they should have confidence in the way they play."
Chipping in alongside Marajiah Bacon (Neptune, NJ/Neptune) was Taylor-Gaston who had a pair of threes to go along with four boards. Senior captains Miesha Bacon (Neptune, NJ/Neptune) (six points and four rebounds) and Jesenia Montalvo (Hillside, NJ/Bayonne) (six points) also helped with the scoring load.
The Knights were without freshman center Jasmine Reese (Jersey City, NJ/Hudson Catholic) once again, their leading rebounder and second-leading scorer on the season. Mya Neal (East Orange, NJ/Newark Tech) helped out greatly on the boards for the second straight game, pulling down seven rebounds against Amherst.
After the lopsided second quarter in which Amherst outscored NJCU 23-5, the third and fourth quarters saw much tighter play with the Mammoths only outscoring the hosts 18-15 in the third and 23-21 in the fourth.
- Series: This was the first-ever meeting between the two programs. NJCU will play a return game and visit Amherst next year.
- This was the fifth game this season that Marajiah Bacon (Neptune, NJ/Neptune) has topped 20 points. She is now leading the New Jersey Athletic Conference in scoring, at 21.5 points per game.
- NJCU was playing its first-ever game against a member of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) in women's basketball and hosted a NESCAC-member school for the first time in any sport in Jersey City. That distinction will happen again on January 14 when the Knights welcome Wesleyan (Conn.) to town.
- After games on back-to-back days over the weekend, the Knights have off until Wednesday, December 5, when they travel to Montclair, N.J. to take on the Red Hawks of Montclair State University (6-1, 3-0 NJAC) in a conference showdown. The game is set to tip off at 6:00 p.m.
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