UNION, N.J. (1/10/15) – Despite a career-high 30 points from junior Tommy Soulias and holding the lead for 62 percent of the game, the Kean University men's basketball team was caught at the buzzer by Rowan University 76-73 on Saturday.
Kean made three-straight threes to open the game, giving the Cougars a 9-2 lead on the Profs, who came into the game 11-1. Mike Diamond, J.J. Hladik, and Soulias hit those from downtown to spring Kean from the gate.
After temporarily surrendering the advantage, Soulias scored five-straight points to give Kean the lead back at 19-18 with 12 minutes to go in the first. A few minutes later, an alley-oop pass from Kevin Grek to Dre Kelly tied the game at 21.
With six minutes to go in the first half, Soulias drained another three – his third of the half - to reach 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting from the floor.
The game was tied at 40 late in the period. Soulias' free throw provided the halftime difference, as the Cougars took a 41-40 advantage to the locker rooms.
On the first possession, Steward (pictured left) caught an alley-oop from Soulias to start the second, keeping the Kean lead.
The Profs struggled at the line throughout the contest, going 3-for-10 at one point midway through the second. With 8:30 to go, Rowan finally regained the lead after the Cougars held off numerous rallies.
Late in the second, Steward's pull-up jumper puts KU back in front by one, Hladik hit a trey to go up four points, and Steward's three put Kean up seven with six minutes to go.
Rowan rallied behind Mike Simpson, who finished with 24 points, to tie it at 70 with three minutes left. The clubs traded threes down the stretch and went into the final minute tied at 73.
Rowan held the ball, got off a shot but missed. Josh Borrelli came down with a huge offensive rebound, which allowed the Profs to hold for a final shot. Simpson knocked down a three, and the Cougars just missed a buzzer-beating heave that would have given Soulias 33 points.
The junior guard finished with a career-high 30, plus three assists, three rebounds and a steal. Steward and Diamond both were good shooting the ball for Kean, going a combined 5-for-7 from the floor. Both players also finished with a team-high five rebounds. Hladik and Soulias both hit four times from downtown.
The Kean squad will host The College of New Jersey on Wednesday at 8 p.m. inside Harwood Arena.