By Grant Playter | Staff Writer
The TCNJ Lions sped down the court, the final ten seconds of the half trickling down as the crowd roared for them to score. The two teams had battled back in forth with Stockton Ospreys having a lead for much of the first half, but now they had an opportunity to change the tide heading into the second half. The scoreboard read 46-48, the seconds winding down even as Niall Carpenter went to the basket and ….
SCORE! A two pointer from Carpenter tied the game entering the half, the Lions keeping themselves in the contest to the tune of 48-48. The Ospreys had led by as much as eight points twice during this half, but the Lions had several shooting sprees to keep them involved. A hard fought victory, but one that could set a positive tone for the second half.
“When two teams get together that have a history, like Stockton and us,” Lions coach Matt Goldsmith said. “Guys come ready to play and that was just a really good college basketball game. Each team was shooting way above their percentages coming into the game, they had two guys, who were 3-for-3 each from 3 at half. Big time players showed up.”
Come the second half; however, the close contest would become not so close. The Lions controlled the ball, at some points leading the Ospreys by as much as 19 points when it was 90-72. Niall Carpenter and Eric Murdock Jr. led the way, each putting up 23 points.
“They came out hot man,” Carpenter said. “Stockton’s a good team, they started second in the NJAC, so we knew it was gonna be a battle. But we just knew that we had to keep pushing and get over the hump, they came out pretty hot, but we knew that we had great practices all wee. We just trusted in what we were doing, so we just kept it going.”
Zavon Johnson nailed a three pointer as the buzzer screech ending the game, bringing them up to 84 points, the most points scored against the Lions on the season. But the Lions had hit a season-high of their own, sinking 95 points and beating the Ospreys 95-84.
“It was a great game all around, Stockton came out on fire.” said Carpenter. “We were down, I wanna say about ten early, we just knew we had to weather the storm and we got great scorers all around on our team; they got great scores too, so we knew it was gonna be a great battle in the NJAC.”
The difference in the halves is notable. The Lions and Ospreys both scored 48 points in the first, but while the Lions kept it up in the second to the tune of 47 points, the Ospreys could only answer with 36. Coach Goldsmith noted this after the game, speaking to the change in their defensive play.
“Our hot streak shooting continued, and there’s kinda slowed down,” Goldsmith said. “They missed a few of the ones they were hitting in the first half, I think we dug in defensively, we made a couple of adjustments, and we kept the pressure on.”
With this win, the Lions advance to a 4-1 record, only losing their season opener against Utica College, while Stockton falls to 4-3. The Lions next game will be tomorrow against Kean University, and if they can keep up the stellar offensive play, and shore up the defense, they could very well light it up again.
“Man they came out really hot and kinda just punched us in the face,” Goldsmith said, a laugh in his voice. “But our guys, they respond to adversity well and they did that [Wednesday night].”