Caldwell Basketball
Mark Heber (Photo by Juan Martinez - JSN)

Caldwell Cougars extend winning streak to four after home victory

Throughout January, Caldwell University's men's basketball team has played three games in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Connecticut but on Saturday they returned to New Jersey to face Chestnut Hill College for the first of a six-game homestand.

In front of a good crowd inside the George R. Newman Center in Caldwell, New Jersey, the Caldwell University Cougars battled the Chestnut Hill College Griffins on Saturday. The Cougars came into this game riding a three-game winning streak and sitting third place in the Central Athletic Collegiate Conference (CACC) after defeating No. 11 Post University in their most recent game.

The Cougars went with a lineup that featured the CACC leader points-per-game Darnell Evans at point-guard as well as shooting guard Mark Heber, forwards Jaiden Williams and Kirk Parsons and six-foot-eight center Moussa Ngom. On the other side of the court the Griffin lineup starred Neal Hill, the CACC leader in rebounds-per-game.

There weren’t many points scored in the opening five minutes, but eventually, Caldwell took the lead. Field goal shooting was a strength for the Cougars who shot 13/30 in the first half, while it was a weakness for Chestnut Hill who shot 23% as a team in the first frame.

When the second half began, the Cougars were given the first possession, and it was Caldwell’s alpha cougar, Darnell Evans who touched the ball first, dribbling it up court with a graceful confidence that one only sees in the most confident of athletes.

Caldwell didn’t stop attacking in the first few minutes either-- they ended up scoring six unanswered points behind baskets from Melvin Evans, who came off the bench and a strong drive to the basket from Parsons.

Just when the Cougars offense looked like it was slowing down, Darnell Evans stepped up and took an Allen Iverson-like 3-point-shot in front of a defender to make the score 47-24.

As the second half wore on, Chestnut Hill stayed within 10-15 points of the home side but never could string together enough unanswered points to threaten Caldwell's grip on this game. The closest the visitors got was halfway through the 2nd half when the score was 51-38. At that point, Caldwell head coach, Dean Johnson called a timeout, where he gave his players, a stern talking to and after that the Cougars never faltered.

Finishing the Performance

The visitors made a push with 8:30 remaining where they went on a 6-0 run. Two successful field goals followed by a foul on their center and two free throws brought the lead down to the closest it would ever get, 11 points (54-43).

On a possession after that, the Cougar's Darnell Evans was dribbling inside the paint toward the baseline and was pushed onto the floor by two opponents. Despite hitting the deck hard, Evans brushed off the pain and gave his team a gain by making both free throws.

With six minutes remaining in the game, Caldwell had a 13-point lead but would stretch it to 21 over the next four minutes. But Caldwell never let Chestnut Hill off the hook and ended up finishing off their first home game in a month, strongly with a 74-56 victory.

Thoughts from Head Coach Johnson

After playing four straight games on the road, the Caldwell Cougars men's basketball showed up and beat a team that is far below them in the standings convincingly. Darnell Evans led all players with 28 points as well as two steals and assists, but Caldwell received balanced scoring up and down the lineup. Melvin Evans had 11 points and 6'4 forward Jaiden Williams had 9 points, 6 rebounds and a Block.

Last season, Caldwell's head coach Dean Johnson guided the team to winning both their regular season and conference championship. They even defeated a No. 1 seed in the first round of the NCAA DII East Regional.

Coach Johnson is no stranger to success but he discussed why returning home and getting a win today was important.

It was a W, we'll take it. We have put together a difficult schedule for the first half of our season and first time we've been home in a month but hats off to Chestnut Hill they did what they wanted to do, they executed a little bit, and we found a way to win. It hasn't been the way we've been playing for the last three games all on the road obviously, so you have to find ways to win games when you're playing 28 games and not having Derrick tonight hurt us a little bit on paper, but the other guys stepped up and that's what team is all about.

-Caldwell University men's basketball HC, Dean Johnson

Caldwell have had some ups and downs this season. From Nov. 29- Dec. 30, they lost six straight games, but found a way to turn that around and Coach Johnson shed some light on his team's resiliency.

We've been right in every game, we just haven't been able to figure out, at the end, how to win and then around Christmas time, we did. They're experienced. They've been here before with me so that helps, I also think sometimes you think you can turn it off and turn it on whenever you want and that's not the type of program we have, but I'm happy we won today.

Caldwell guard, Darnell Evans has been lighting up the CACC. The sophomore from Amityville, NY is leading the conference in points-per-game (23.9) and outdid himself today with a merciless 28 point display.

Coach Johnson added some thoughts on how the star player is learning to do more for the team than scoring points.

Last year [he was] rookie of the year, first team all-conference and he's a very tough matchup for a lot of [our opponents] because of his quickness, because of his shooting ability and his ability to take you off the bounce... he is so talented that he's adjusting with me. He's not a true point guard, he's a scoring guard but he understands that sometimes he's got to share the ball and when he does other people have to produce for him and today a few of them did.

Caldwell's next game will be on Jan. 23 against Bloomfield College on Coaches vs Cancer Suits and Sneakers Night and the Cougars will look to keep their winning streak alive.

Anthony Paradiso
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