UNION, N.J. (12/10/14) – The Kean University men's basketball team erased a 14-point deficit on its way to its first win of the year: a 58-55 upset of Rutgers-Newark, who came into the contest with an 8-1 record and in first place in the NJAC.
On the game's first two possessions, the Cougars were able to get a pair of alley-oop layups. The first was from Tommy Soulias to Emmanuel Omowole and the second battery was composed of J.J. Hladik and Lincoln Holley. But the NJAC-leading Scarlet Raiders asserted themselves in the next few minutes, and eventually opened a 27-13 lead.
Hladik scored 11-straight points for Kean in the final six minutes of the first half, and finished with a team-high 13 in the first period with the help of a 5-for-5 performance from the line.
Still, Rutgers-Newark led at halftime by three, 28-25. Chris Foreman paced the visitors with 14 points at the break.
Kean got themselves to within one as the second half began. Mike Diamond hit a tough runner in the lane with the shot clock about to expire at 10:58 to make the score 40-39. But Newark, as they had all night, answered on the next possession to keep the Cougars trailing.
Finally, with nine minutes to go, Omowole converted both free throws to knot the proceedings at 43. With the score still tied, Omowole hit a lefty layup for his 11th point and gave Kean its first lead since the 18-minute mark of the first half.
After Newark came down and knotted it up, Hladik found Omowole underneath for a reverse lay-up to put Kean back up ahead. After a defensive stop, Hladik's deep three from the halfcourt logo ripped the twine to extend the Cougar lead to five – the largest of the night – with four minutes to go.
With two minutes on the clock, the Cougars went back to the alley-oop, and Haldik connected with Omowole again for the impressive bucket.
Kean held the ball with under a minute to go, up by three. With time running out on the shot clock, Tim Steward set a good hard screen to free Soulias (pictured right) for a long, off-balance three. The junior knocked it down as the crowd roared its approval of Kean's biggest shot of the season.
Though Rutgers-Newark got a pair of late layups, a technical foul called on the Raiders' head coach with one-tenth of a second remaining on the clock sealed the victory for Kean.
Omowole (pictured left) had a fantastic all-around game for the Cougars, with seven rebounds, six assists and a steal to go with his 15 points. Hladik led all scorers with 19 points in the game.
Christian Garcia led the Scarlet Raiders with 18 points.
Kean is now 1-6 and 1-4 in the NJAC. Newark fell to 8-2 and 3-1 in the league.
The Cougars will next travel to Delaware Valley College on Saturday for a 3 p.m. non-conference matchup.