UNION, N.J. (2/22/11) – The Kean University men's basketball team was unable to overcome an early double-digit deficit and the loss of New Jersey Athletic Conference Player of the Year Jonathan Jones in the early seconds of the game, as New Jersey City University defeated host Kean University, 75-61, in the NJAC semifinals on Tuesday evening.
Jones left the game just 22 seconds after the opening tip and never returned and the Gothic Knights followed with the game's first nine points to take a lead they would never relinquish.
Senior guard Da'Shon Barrino led NJCU (18-9) with a game-high 18 points, as the Gothic Knights will host Montclair State University on Friday, February 25. Freshman guard Michael Burton (pictured left) scored 13 points for Kean (18-8).
In the game-opening run, sophomore Walik Albright had back-to-back lay-ups and junior guard Keith Williams knocked down a three-pointer, before Barrino closed out the run with a pair of free throws for the 9-0 lead just 3:22 into the contest.
Kean sophomore Diego Gutierrez got the Cougars on the board with a pair of free throws, however the Gothic Knights pushed the lead out to double-digits at 12-2 on a three-pointer by Barrino. The Cougars trimmed the deficit to four points following a jumper by sophomore guard Mike Shaughnessy and a lay-up by rookie Kyle Latorre, but NJCU answered with eight straight point to push the lead out to 12 points at 26-14.
Trailing 33-23 with 4:03 remaining in the half, Kean closed out the opening half on a 9-2 run to pull within 35-32 at the break.
Burton, Latorre (pictured right) and Gutierrez each had six points for the Cougars, while Barrino dropped in 10 points and had three assists and two steals to lead the Gothic Knights.
Latorre opened the second half with a basket to pull within one point and had a chance to tie the game with the three-point play, however the Gothic Knights rebounded the missed free throw and Barrino scored four of the Gothic Knights next six points.
NJCU would again push the lead out to double-digits at 52-42 with just under 11 minutes remaining before the Cougars pulled back to within eight points on a pair of free throws by Burton. NJCU responded with five straight points to extend the lead back to double-figures and the Cougars were unable to pull closer than nine points the rest of the way.
For the Cougars, Latorre and Gutierrez each finished with 10 points, with Latorre and senior guard Rob Lewis grabbing a game-high six rebounds.
In the NJCU win, Williams had 16 points and two assists, while senior guard James Livington added 10 points and five rebounds off the bench.
Averaging 24.9 points and 14.2 rebounds entering the game, Jones (pictured left) closes out the season at 23.9 points and 13.7 rebounds and finishes his career ranked sixth in program history with 1,359 career points.