UNION, N.J. (2/14/15) - The Kean University men's basketball just missed knocking off its second ranked opponent in as many tries as the Cougars fell to No. 19 Richard Stockton College 64-63 on Saturday. The afternoon was also senior day for Kean's Emmanuel Omowole, J.J. Hladik and Tim Steward.
Kean is now 6-18 on the year and 4-13 in the NJAC. The Ospreys improved to 19-5 and 13-4 in the league via the nailbiter.
The Kean defense forced Stockton to miss their first six shots and raced out to an 11-0 advantage four minutes in. Hladik and Soulias both made two treys in the opening run that featured a block by Steward and three rebounds by the senior.
Kean held the Ospreys to just 10 points in the first 13 minutes of the contest. Stockton was shooting less than 20 percent for a good stretch of the first period.
By the time the game reached its midpoint, Hladik had poured in four three-pointers and Soulias had three. Kean was outshooting Stockton 54 percent to 36 and had hit all six of its free throws. The Cougars led by as many as 17 at 9:31, but by the break No. 13 Stockton had chopped the lead down to six. Still, Kean had never trailed.
Stockton whittled the lead all the way down to one early in the second period, but Hladik stepped back and hit yet another three to give the Cougars a larger cushion with 16 minutes to go.
With Kean's lead trimmed back down by two, Soulias hit a 30-foot three-pointer to re-ignite the Harwood Arena crowd.
At 7:55, Omowole broke down his defender and hit a 15-foot jumper to push the advantage back to three. On the next possession, he found Soulias for an alley-oop layup that got the lead to five.
With four minutes to go the Ospreys finally caught Kean. Fittingly it was Josh Blamon's three that provided the tying points. The senior had 29 at that point to pace the Stockton comeback.
Though Kean got a layup on its next trip down the floor, Blamon answered with another three to give the Ospreys their first lead of the afternoon.
Stockton maintained that advantage through the final score - neither team scored a single point over the final three minutes and nine seconds. Kean did have a chance to take the lead in the closing moments, but Blamon came up with a block to keep Stockton ahead. He finished with the game's only double double with 32 points and 10 rebounds on the day. Marcus Harmon and Armin Cane both had nine points for the visitors.
The Cougars - who led for 88 percent of the game - were led by Soulias, who scored 29 points. Kean's senior class also had a banner day: Omowole had a dozen points and a team-high five assits, Hladik sank six three-pointers and added three more assists and Steward led the team with six rebounds.
The Cougars will wrap up the 2014-15 season against The College of New Jersey on Wednesday at 8 p.m.