On a rainy evening at Montclair State University, the Red Hawks women's basketball team squared off with New Jersey City University (NJCU) for a 5:30 pm tip-off at the Panzer Athletic Center.
This game was MSU women's basketball's fifth of the season and just the second for the visitors. Although it came early in the season, it was important for both teams. The New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) preseason poll picked NJCU to finish first in the conference, but tabbed the Red Hawks to place fifth.
In addition, the Red Hawks and Gothic Knights have been bitter rivals recently, because the latter has knocked the former out of the NJAC tournament in each of the last two seasons. The most painful result? NJCU defeating Montclair State 64-60 in the 2021 final.
The Teams Take the Court
Just two points separated these two New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) rivals after one quarter of play with the NJCU Gothic Knights leading 11-9. However, from that point on, the Red Hawks fell prey to an energetic offensive display from their opponents, who outscored them 51-34 on the way to a 62-43 victory and their
NJCU benefitted from the play of last year's Eastern College Athletic Conference Player of the Year, Damaris Rodriguez. The senior Guard from Secaucus, New Jersey led all players in this game with 18 points and pulled down nine rebounds. That was second only to Red Hawks center Olivia Vero (10) and she also had four steals.
Sophomore Guard Tahirah Kelley also had a fine day for the knights, scoring 14 points and making two-of-three from 'downtown'.
What hurt MSU the most throughout this game was their field-goal percentage. The Red Hawks shot 26.5% on the night and that was well behind the 36% rate which the visitors came in at. The Knights seized control with a blazing third quarter where they converted 46% of field-goals and four of seven three pointers.
When the third quarter ended, NJCU held a 48-30 advantage over MSU and although the hosts didn't quit, that deficit ended up being too much for them to overcome. The win evened up NJCUs record at 1-1, while Montclair State fell to 1-4 on the season after dropping this first NJAC game of the 2023-24 season.
Red Hawks Reflect on Early Season Loss
This isn't to say that Montclair State failed in every aspect of the game. Senior Megan Duffy, who can play either guard or forward, led the Red Hawks with 12 points, four rebounds and shot 100% from the free-throw line.
We worked really hard and we we're fighting to get back in the game. We saw some good defense from our team but unfortunately, we just couldn't put the ball in the basket, but I think that first quarter showed what kind of defensive team we're going to be. - MSU WBB Senior Megan Duffy
Right behind Duffy, a sophomore Guard for the Red Hawks named Shannon Hughes contributed a team second-best nine points over 30 minutes of play tonight. After the game, Hughes spoke about what her team did well tonight and the basketball identity that they want to start embodying.
Our team thrives on rebounding and defense and that's what we did well, but at the end of the day it's about whether we can put the ball in the basket. We're working on defense every day and we're working on shooting, but we just gotta put the ball in the basket. -Shannon Hughes
For now, the Montclair State women's basketball team will enjoy six days off during the Thanksgiving break. But when they return to the court for a home game on Nov. 27, it will be back to the drawing board and Duffy discussed the road forward for the Red Hawks.
We're looking forward to our next game. We're looking to get better every game and it starts in practice. Its only starting to come together so, yeah just looking forward to the next game.
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