The Signal

Serving the College since 1885

Monday April 15th

TCNJ men’s basketball stuns Rowan to advance to the NJAC Championship

<p><em>The College in their win (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Gladstone / Multimedia Coordinator).</em></p>

The College in their win (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Gladstone / Multimedia Coordinator).

By Joseph Caruso
Staff Writer

Riding the momentum from their first-round victory against Ramapo, the Lions traveled to Glassboro on Wednesday hoping to play spoiler to the Profs of Rowan. 

The College was looking to advance to the New Jersey Athletic Conference Tournament final, but the Profs were a challenging task. Sitting atop the conference with a record of 19-6, including 13-5 in the conference, Rowan was ranked No. 21 in the country and held the top seed in the NJAC Tournament. 

For the Lions, they were trying to extend their two-game win streak after an impressive win in the first round against Ramapo, and they would need to play their best basketball to steal a victory from Rowan on the road. 

The contest was pretty back-and-forth for most of the first half, until the College completely blasted the Profs, going on a 21-6 run to end the half, and going into the locker room up 46-31.

The game-changing run was led by sophomore guard Nick Koch and junior forward Matthew Okorie, who scored 11 and 14 points in the first half respectively. The Lions as a whole unit shot 54% from the field and over 40% from downtown through the first 20 minutes, compared to a ghastly 35% from Rowan, who also turned the ball over five times in the first half. 

The Profs were not going to go down easy, scoring eight unanswered points of their own coming out of the halftime break, cutting the College’s lead in half. 

The Lions steadied the ship and kept Rowan at arm's length for the entirety of the game, and despite the Profs battling back to as close as three, the College never surrendered their lead and advanced to the NJAC final with a 79-73 win. 

Rowan was disastrous from three-point range the entire game, shooting just 8-31, and they also shot under 40% from the field as a team. They were led by Khalif Meares, who finished with 21 points and had three other scorers in double digits. 

For the Lions, Koch, who was recently named All-NJAC second team, put on a show with 24 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists, and perhaps most impressively, zero turnovers in 38 minutes of play. 

Okorie also had a huge day with 21 points while sophomore forward Matthew Solomon was a force on the interior, blocking three shots and grabbing 17 rebounds, seven of which were offensive. It was a team effort on both sides of the ball from the Lions all night. 

“What makes this team so special is everyone has each other's back,” Koch said. “Throughout all of the mistakes each person made tonight, another teammate was there to help them move forward.”

The Lions now have several impressive road wins this season, including beating Rowan twice in Glassboro and beating fellow NJAC finalist Stockton on their home floor. 

“It starts with defense,” Koch added when asked about the Lions' road success. “Our togetherness and energy really sparks our defense… even in the hostile environments, we know what we have to do to win and stay to ourselves.” 

The College will advance to the NJAC championship game, where they will travel to Stockton on Saturday to try to get revenge after their previous matchup with the Ospreys. 


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