UNION – Senior forward Jonathan Jones scored a career-high 32 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead the Kean University men’s basketball team to a 88-78 win over The College of New Jersey in the New Jersey Athletic Conference opener for both team’s on Wednesday evening.
The Cougars (3-2, 1-0 NJAC) scored a season-high 88 points, as nine different players scored at least five points in the win. For the Lions (1-5, 0-1 NJAC), sophomore guard Donovan Smalls had a team-high 23 points and four assists.
With the game tied at 56-56 with less than 12 minutes remaining, Jones had a three-point play to give the Cougars the lead for good and spark a 12-2 run that freshman Andrew Kirey capped with a three-pointer with 8:35 remaining for a 68-58 lead.
Jones extended the Cougar lead to as many as 14 points (75-61) with a dunk and the Lions were only able to pull within eight points on three occasions in the final minutes, as the Cougars were able to seal the 10-point victory.
In the opening three minutes of the game, the game was tied on five separate occasions before an 8-0 run by the Lions gave TCNJ an 18-10 lead with 13:44 remaining in the opening half. TCNJ would extend the lead to as many as nine points on a pair of possessions, before a 9-0 run by Kean tied the game for a sixth time at 25-25 on a lay-up by rookie guard J.J. Hladik with 9:24 left.
The Cougars regained the lead at 28-27 on a free throw by Jones and would extend the lead to seven points on a jumper by Hladik and again later in the half on a three-pointer by junior Ali Mix, however the Lions used a 7-0 run to tie the game at 45-45 on a lay-up by senior forward Steve Siracusa with 1:56 left in the half.
Jones closed out the first-half scoring with a jumper off of one of the nine assists by sophomore guard Mike Shaughnessy with 14 seconds left in the half for the 47-45 lead at the break.
In the second half, the Lions kept the Cougars to a one-possession game in the early minutes before the Cougars pushed the lead out to 56-50 on lay-ups by sophomore Diego Gutierrez and Jones. The Lions had one last run in them, scoring six straight points to tie the game one final time at 56-56, however the Cougars answered right back with the 12-2 spurt to extend the lead to double-digits.
The Cougars held a 43-22 edge in points off the bench, as Gutierrez finished with 11 points and Hladik added eight points on 4-of-6 shooting to lead the way.
Siracusa hit 6-of-8 shots for the Lions and finished with 16 points, nine rebounds, five steals and four assists. Junior forward Peter Kelly added 13 points off the bench.
The Cougars travel to New Jersey City University on Saturday, December 4, for a NJAC doubleheader with the Gothic Knights. The men’s game is slated to tip-off at 4 p.m.
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