Men's Basketball to Face Rutgers-Newark in NJAC Semifinals

Montclair, NJ (2/21/09) – The Montclair State men’s basketball team will face a familiar foe in the NJAC Tournament semifinals on Tuesday, February 24 as the Red Hawks take on Rutgers-Newark for the third time this season. Tipoff the contest is set for 7:00 pm at the MSU Student Recreation Center.

Tickets for each game are $5 for adults $2 for students, children and seniors. Due to NJAC regulations all tickets must be purchased. Seating is limited in the MSU Student Recreation Center (approximately 400 seats) so tickets will be on a first-come-first-serve basis. The ticket window will open at 6:00 pm.

MSU enters the game at 20-5 and winners of the NJAC North Division as the Red Hawks compiled an 11-2 conference mark during league play. Rutgers-Newark finished third in the North at 7-6 and knocked off The College of New Jersey, 77-66 on Saturday to earn the short trip to Montclair for the semifinals.

Montclair State swept the season series with the Scarlet Raiders however that margin was by a mere six points. The Red Hawks won the first meeting as James Williams ( Englewood, NJ / Dwight Morrow) hit two free throws with 21 seconds remaining as Montclair State escaped with a 62-61 victory.

In a contest that featured 11 ties and five lead changes, Rutgers-Newark nearly pulled off a comeback inside the final three minutes. Trailing 60-55 with 2:46 to go, junior Deshawn Singleton ( Passaic, NJ / Passaic) hit from in close to trim the lead to three with 2:32 remaining. Montclair State then committed two straight turnovers and Phil Barnes ( Middlesex, NJ / Middlesex) scored on a layup as the Scarlet Raiders pulled within a point at 60-52 with 1:18 showing.

On the next MSU possession, Rutgers-Newark came up with a big defensive effort and forced a wild shot as the shot clock was winding down. Barnes would snare the rebound and was fouled with 33 seconds left. The junior drained both attempts to put Rutgers-Newark in front 61-60. Williams would be fouled and calmly sank both hit free throws to put Montclair State back on top.

Rutgers-Newark got the final possession and just about threw its chances away as David Cherry’s ( Linden, NJ / Roselle Catholic) pass was taken away by Tom Bonard ( Westfield, NJ / Westfield). However, Bonard lost the handle going up the floor and De’Vion Manning ( Maplweood, NJ / St. Benedict’s Prep) scooped up the loose ball. He then fed Johnson with three second left. Johnson took two dribbles and got a solid look from 24 feet straight away, but his attempt clanked off the rim and MSU held on for the one-point victory.

A month later the two met in the rematch at the Golden Dome with the Red Hawks prevailing again, 69-64. MSU erased a nine-point halftime deficit as Bonard scored a career-high 25 points, including 10-of-10 from the charity stripe.

Jon Georges ( West Orange, NJ/St. Peter’s Prep) muscled inside for 16 points and a game-high 15 rebounds while rejecting three shots.  Freshman guard Ali Mix ( East Orange, NJ/ East Orange Campus) netted all 12 of his points in the second half, hitting two of three shots from 3-point range.

Singleton paced the Raiders with 20 points and 11 rebounds while Barnes also pulled down 11 boards. Cherry, who finished with 13 points, and junior guard James Johnson (Summit, NJ/Summit), who tallied a dozen, netted nine points apiece as the Raiders constructed a 30-21 halftime edge.

The crucial play of the game came with 20 seconds left when senior center Ryan Washing ton (Edison, NJ/John P. Stevens) grabbed a missed free throw by Mix and put it back in for a crucial 63-61 lead.  After a Raider turnover, Bonard pushed the lead to five with a pair of free throws with 16 ticks remaining.  Bonard then made four of four free throw tries to offset a pair of layups by Singleton in the final 11 seconds to keep Rutgers-Newark at bay.

This will be the second time that the two will meet in the NJAC Tournament. Rutgers-Newark captured the only other matchup in 2005 as the Scarlet Raiders recorded a 56-48 win in Newark in the opening round.

The winner of the contest heads to the NJAC Championship Game on Friday, February 27 against either Richard Stockton or William Paterson, who battle in the other semifinal also on Tuesday.

The winner of the NJAC Championship receives and automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament which begins on March 5-6.