If it’s anything we’ve learned from last year, is that it’s just that: last year.
Despite the fact that the men’s basketball team took both games from The College of New Jersey last year, the Beavers cost themselves what many thought would’ve been a “sure-win” against the Lions on Saturday, falling 76-61 in Harlem.
The Beavers’ dynamic scoring duo of Anthony Lewis and Khalil Hamer scored in double digits for the sixth time in as many games as Hamer tied TCNJ’s Bobby Brackett with a game-high 25 points while Lewis finished with 14. Once again, they were the only ones in double digits, as CCNY only had five other players score on Saturday.
Brackett and Jayson Johnson both combined for 49 points for the Lions as both went a combined 17-for-26 from the court with Brackett going 10-for-12. The Lions outscored CCNY 38-23 in the second half and outshot City 59.1 percent from the court to just 33.3 percent.
“For whatever reasons, we just didn’t have the defensive energy in the second half,” Beavers head coach Tom Green said after the game. “We just didn’t get it done in the second half. They just played smart. They picked us apart.”
The loss marks the first time this season where CCNY (3-3, 0-1 CUNYAC) has lost back-to-back games, a streak the Beavers are hoping ends at just two games. Last year, CCNY had the same exact record after the first six games and went on a five-game losing streak after the sixth game, falling to 3-8 before defeating Lehman on Jan. 11.
“We just gotta prepare better,” Hamer mentioned.
While the Beavers have done a better job with the ball so far in the season, their 12 turnovers on Saturday came at the worst times possible in the game: inside the paint with chances to score and take control of the game.
“I thought it was a winnable game for sure,” Green added. “We just didn’t do what we had to do to take care of business today.”
CCNY took the opening lead as Saleh Nasser hit a three to put CCNY up 5-4 with 17:30 left in the first half. The Beavers capitalized on the three by going on a 10-5 run in the four-plus minutes following the shot to go up 15-8.
After a Lions timeout, TCNJ went on a 15-8 run of their own, taking advantage of the Beavers’ mistakes on both sides of the ball, tying the game at 23. The Lions would tie the game at 38 after a big foul on freshman Salvatore Palazzolo gave the Lions a chance at a pair of free throws (both of which were made) with 3.2 seconds left in the half.
The Beavers lost momentum of the game in the end of the first half, then lost control of the game completely in the second, allowing TCNJ to open the second on a quick 5-2 run before Lewis scored on eight straight points to give City the slim 46-43 lead with 16:57 left in the game. TCNJ responded to Lewis and CCNY’s rally attempt by going on a 13-6 run through the next nine minutes to take the go-ahead 62-52 lead with 7:35 left, including a 13-3 run before a three-pointer by Grevis King helped stop the bleeding for City.
The Lions held onto the lead for the rest of the game while CCNY shot just 33 percent from the court, including going just 1-for-3 from the free throw line.
“These games are huge,” Hamer said. “Three conference game, these are the games that are going to boil down to where we seed in the playoffs.
“For us to be able to play good against a conference opponent is going to be important.”
With three straight CUNYAC games on the horizon starting with Friday night’s matchup against York, the Beavers have a week to fix their scoring issues outside of Hamer and Lewis before a two-game losing streak becomes another five-game losing streak, or worse.