After beginning the season with seven games on the road, the Rowan University men’s basketball team returned to the Esbjornson Gym on Saturday. The Profs put their undefeated New Jersey Athletic Conference record on the line against rival William Paterson, which was looking to pick up its first victory in-conference.
While the teams have a glaring disparity when it comes to wins, the game was much closer than expected, with Rowan pulling out a 78-75 victory. The Profs now have six wins by five or fewer points on the season.
Rowan struck early and often, creating turnovers and pulling out to a 17-7 lead five minutes into the game. Senior forward Shawn Wilson caught fire, totaling 14 points while only playing 13 minutes in the first half.
William Paterson (2-5) gained some momentum heading into halftime following a 14-3 run. At the intermission, the brown and gold led the Pioneers, 41-34.
That lead dwindled in the second half when Rowan began committing turnovers that resulted in easy baskets for the Pioneers. Soon enough, they found themselves down, 66-61, with 6:13 left in the game.
Sophomore guard Rob DePersia and junior forward TJ Booth would head the charge for Rowan late in the game. DePersia had two straight steals that led to easy buckets for Booth in transition and also got him to the charity stripe.
DePersia earned a trip to the free throw line with 21 seconds left down, 75-74, and converted both shots. Wilson sealed the victory with two more free throws.
“The fight and being able to figure out a way to win, was huge for these guys,” said head coach Joe Crispin after the game. “We shot 20 percent from beyond the arc, and when you do that, it’s going to be a hard time winning a game… Our guys fought, and that quality is more important than X’s and O’s, and I’m proud of them.”
Rowan continued its home stand with a matchup against Eastern University on Monday, hoping to improve to 7-1 on the year. Instead, the result was a lopsided 116-99 loss, the second 17-point defeat for the Profs.
The team would start off slow, quickly going down 10-0 to begin the game. Things wouldn’t get much better for the brown and gold, as Eastern was able to sustain a comfortable lead throughout the game. Rowan trailed, 51-44, at the half after a buzzer-beating three by Eastern’s Austin Duncan.
The Profs found themselves down as much as 23 points midway through the second half. They were out-rebounded, 48-27, and shot 40 percent from the field, compared to Eastern’s remarkable 65 percent clip.
“The beginning part of the game, I was really disappointed with the lack of attention to detail and effort, and gave them things that we were 100 percent not supposed to be giving them,” Crispin said. “It was a lack of focus and discipline. They shot the heck out of the ball, and sometimes teams will do that, but the reason they did that was due to our lack of discipline. I think we were feeling a little too good about being 6-1, and I didn’t like that.”
Although Rowan won the turnover battle against Eastern, 28-10, they couldn’t capitalize.
“I feel as though we didn’t finish like we should’ve been, but that comes with focusing, and being down the whole time, we were in a rush to score,” Wilson said. “We went on a run, and were still down 10. It as just an example of being beat at our own game tonight.”
The brown and gold suffered their second straight loss, falling 87-79, on Wednesday night against NJAC rival The College of New Jersey.
The Profs are now 6-3 overall and 3-1 in the conference. Their next game is on Saturday against Montclair State.
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