UNION, N.J. (11/18/14) – Despite a spectacular 18-point effort from senior J.J. Hladik, the Kean University men's basketball team fell in a 66-65 heartbreaker to in-state rival Stevens Institute of Technology on Tuesday.
Both teams made just 15 percent of their field goal attempts – one each - through the first four minutes when Kean led 3-2.
Tim Steward (pictured left) scored 13 of the Cougars' 35 points in the first half, including their first three-pointer and a baseline jumper with two seconds remaining in the first. In between, the senior shot 5-of-7, including three hits from behind the arc.
Kean countered early pressure from the Ducks, and got out to an 8-to-4 lead. Good ball movement from Kean led to a pocket pass lay-up for Hladik and a wide-open 3-pointer for Steward. Kean zone defense dominated the first half, forcing the Ducks to long shots that turned into fast break points on the rebounds.
Kean built a 28-15 lead with five minutes to go, but a pair of late threes by Otis Osman helped cut the halftime lead to eight at 35-27. The Cougars still led wire-to-wire in the first.
In the second, Stevens went on an 11-2 run to start the half and take its first lead at 38-37 on a Kenny Gan free throw.
After Stevens held the advantage for a sizable stretch, Hladik single-handedly led the Cougars comeback with back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers as the crowd erupted. Kean went in front 52-to-50 with 5:39 remaining on the last trey from Hladik.
The lead swung back-and-forth over the final five minutes and the score was tied with2:15 to go and again at 1:29. Stevens then made a jump shot and then a free throw to go ahead by three with 20 seconds on the clock.
Kean tried a 3-pointer but missed, leading into a forced-foul situation for Kean. The Ducks made one out of two free throws to take a 66-62 lead. Still-hot shooting Hladik banked in a 40-foot 3-pointer as time expired, but the Cougars could come no closer, leaving Kean one point short in their home opener.
Kean will look to bounce back in its first conference game of the year against New Jersey City University at 4:00pm. on Saturday.