POMONA, N.J. (2/16/11) – In a battle for the New Jersey Athletic Conference South Division and a first-round bye in the upcoming NJAC playoffs, the Kean University men’s basketball captured a 55-53 win over host Richard Stockton College on Wednesday evening.
Senior forward Jonathan Jones (pictured left) had game-highs of 23 points and 15 rebounds and scored seven of the team’s final 11 points, as the Cougars (18-7, 10-3 NJAC) erased a 50-44 deficit in the final four minutes of the game.
Trailing 50-44 after a basket by Richard Stockton’s Kai Massaquoi with 5:53 remaining, it was nearly two minutes later when Kean rookie J.J. Hladik had a jumper and Jones followed with a free throw to cut the lead in half at 50-47 with 3:11 remaining.
The Ospreys extended the lead to 53-47 when Pat Kelly knocked down a three-pointer, however Jones answered with a three-point play to again cut the deficit in half with 2:22 left in the regular season. Kean rookie Andrew Kirey converted 1-of-2 foul shots and Jones grabbed an offensive rebound off of his own miss and converted the putback to tie the game at 53-53 with 1:13 remaining.
After the Ospreys missed a three-point attempt, Kean sophomore guard Mike Shaughnessy was fouled and hit the second of two free throws to give the Cougars the one-point lead in the final minute. The Ospreys had a pair of opportunities on their next possession when they missed their first shot and retained the ball with the offensive board. But a turnover gave the ball back to the Cougars and the Ospreys were forced to foul with just nine seconds left.
The Cougars were unable to extend the lead after a pair of missed free throws and a Kean foul gave Richard Stockton a chance tie the game or take the lead with a pair of free throws. However, the Ospreys missed both foul shots and Jones hit 1-of-2 in the final seconds to give Kean the two-point lead with three seconds left. The Ospreys were able to get off one last shot before Kean freshman Michael Burton (pictured right) grabbed the defensive board as time expired to give the Cougars their first NJAC South Division titie.
Both teams had sluggish starts to the game, with Kean taking a 7-4 lead midway through the first half following a pair of free throws from Jones. The Cougars opened up a 17-6 lead following a 12-2 run, before taking a 28-15 lead into halftime.
Jones led the Cougars with eight points and eight rebounds, while Nnamdi Usuwa led Richard Stockton with six points.
After a dunk by Jones opened the second half to give the Cougars the 15-point lead, the Ospreys scored the next seven points of the second half and opened the half with a 22-8 run to take a 37-36 lead on a pair of free throws from Adam Floyd with 13:43 left.
With the game tied at 40-40, the Ospreys opened up their largest lead at six points for the 50-44 advantage following the lay-up by Massaquoi with 5:53 left in the game.
Jones recorded his 24th double-double of the season, as he converted 11-of-15 foul shots. Burton finished with 10 points in the victory as Kean has won 18 games for the first time since a 19-8 record in 1994-95.
For the Ospreys, who enter the upcoming NJAC playoffs as the second seed from the NJAC South Division, Ibn Moye finished with a team-high 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Usuwa and Kelly added 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Kean hosts a NJAC semifinal playoff game next Tuesday, February 22 against the winner of New Jersey City University and Rowan University.