JERSEY CITY, N.J. (NJCUGothicKnights.com) | The last time New Jersey City University was 8-0 to start a men's basketball season, 11th year head coach Marc Brown was the sophomore star of the Siena College men's basketball team. Years later, it's another sophomore that's lifting the Gothic Knights to new heights. Sophomore power forward Sam Toney (Plainfield, NJ/Williamstown) scored 30+ points for the third consecutive game, including a pair of back-to-back threes in the final five minutes and nationally No. 23 ranked NJCU moved to 8-0 to start a season for the first time since the 1988-89 season, rallying past upstart Kean University, 87-76, in New Jersey Athletic Conference action on December 6 at the John J. Moore Athletics and Fitness Center ('Coach Charlie Brown Court').
In its first game this season as a nationally-ranked team, NJCU was even with Kean, 69-69, with 3:34 left, before the hosts outscored Kean 18-7 down the stretch.
It was the 100th known victory for NJCU (8-0, 4-0 NJAC) over the Cougars and the final 11-point margin did not reflect what was a contested game for the first 37 minutes. The game was tied 10 times and the clubs traded 19 lead changes until junior point guard Shaquan Worthy (Trenton, NJ/Trenton Central) drilled a go-ahead three with 2:58 remaining.
NJCU had four players in double figures on a night where its starters carried the workload, scoring 85 of the 87 points. The win was NJCU's 21st consecutive regular season home court victory.
The two sides combined for 23 made three-pointers. In a tale of two halves, Kean (1-5, 1-3 NJAC) shot lights out in the first half—a sizzling 59.3 percent overall (16-of-27)—highlighted by 60 percent from three-point range (9-15) but was limited to 37.9 percent in the second half.
Meanwhile, NJCU shot well in the first half (15-34, 44.1%) but improved even further when it sank half of its second-half attempts (13-26, .500).
Toney, the NJAC Player of the Week, Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association Player of the Week and member of the D3hoops.com National Team of the Week, already was the first player on record in school history to score 30 in consecutive games when he tallied 36 and 30 in consecutive outings last week against William Paterson and Rutgers-Camden. He is now the first Gothic Knight to score 30+ in three straight games.
He scored 10 of NJCU's final 26 points in the final five minutes when the Gothic Knights put their foot on the gas to close out the game. He finished 12-of-19 overall, including 5-of-10 from three-point range and scored 31 points, grabbing 12 rebounds in 34 minutes for another double-double performance—his third of the season and eighth of his career. In the first half alone, Toney scored 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting (2-3 3FG) in just 15 minutes and was too powerful inside. After getting over the 20-point threshold early in the second half, Toney was held scoreless for nearly 12 minutes.
Worthy, who missed action last week with an injury, only took four shots but made half, including the go-ahead triple, to finish with eight points, a career-high 10 assists and five steals in 34 minutes.
Junior small forward James Julius (Linden, NJ/Linden), who missed action last week with a sprained ankle, returned to his home court by pouring in 19 points (4-9 FG), making 4-of-7 three-pointers and 7-of-8 from the line with seven rebounds and four assists in 33 minutes. Julius netted 12 in the opening half (3-6 FG), knocking down 3-of-4 from three-point range. Junior shooting guard Lavrone Green (Teaneck, NJ/Teaneck) added 15 points, including 5-of-5 from the line with three assists and junior center Yuri Brutus (Roselle, NJ/Roselle Park) collected 12 points (5-9 FG).
Kean freshman guard Adrian Baucum (Teaneck, N.J.) was terrific for the Cougars, hitting for 24 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 6-of-10 from three-point distance (4-4 FT) and four assists in 34 minutes. Baucum was 5-of-8 from the field and 5-of-7 from three-point distance for 15 points in 16 minutes (three assists) in the first half.
Also for Kean, junior forward Micah Kerr (Neptune, N.J.) had 16 points (6-10 FG, 2-3 3FG) with five assists and three steals and junior guard Keenan Williams, Jr, (Paulsboro, N.J.) produced 15 points (6-12 FG, 3-7 3FG) and five steals—primarily in the first half when he scored 12 in on 5-of-7 shooting (2-4 3FG) in 16 minutes as he and Baucum accounted for 27 of the 43. Kean's bench outscored NJCU's reserves, 30-2.
- The teams traded 12 leads and five ties in the first half.
- NJCU led 17-12 before Kean countered with a 13-0 run, highlighted by three consecutive threes by Baucum. Kean took a 25-17 lead on a Williams, Jr. fast break with 9:56 left. The eight-point margin was answered by back-to-back threes by Julius, both off assists from freshman guard Kamal Williams (Jersey City, NJ/Dickinson), to cut the deficit to 25-23.
- Toney went into double figures with a three off an inbounds with 8:02 left to make it a 27-26 deficit. Julius hit three foul shots with 6:02 to go (Kean, 32-31).
- Baucum's fifth three of the first half with under a minute to go gave Kean a 40-39 lead. Julius answered with a three to give NJCU back a one-point lead before Williams, Jr. hit another for Kean to give the Cougars a 43-42 edge at halftime.
- In the second half, Julius nailed a three to start the second half and Toney answered Kean's 10th three of the game with an NBA range shot for a 48-46 lead. Toney's fall away jumper for his 21st point gave the Knights a 52-46 lead with 16:57 left.
- Toney was held scoreless for nearly 12 minutes and Kean tied it (56-56) with 10:14 to go. After Kean went back on top, 61-58, with 7:42 to go on a Baucum three, Green tied it (61-61, 6:43) with three foul shots. When Kean went back on top, 63-61, Toney ended his scoring slump, knocking down a three in the near corner off a Julius feed to regain 64-63 lead with 5:00 to go. When Kean went back on top by one, Toney buried another three 32 seconds later for a 67-65 lead—his 27th points— before Kerr answered with a three 18 seconds later to give Kean back a one-point, 68-67 edge. Green would tie it at 69-69 with a layup with 3:34 to play on a jumper in the lane.
- Tied at 69-69, Worthy hit a straight-away three with 2:58 left for a 72-69 lead that the Knights would not relinquish. After a steal by Toney, Juliuswas fouled and hit a pair from the line with 2:21 left (74-69). Worthy picked off Kean on the next possession and fed Green for a fast break with 1:52 left to extend the lead to 76-69 and Toney, Brutus and Worthy iced it from the line. Toney got over the 30-point threshold with an offensive rebound and putback with 31 seconds left to seal the win.
Shaquan Worthy had a career-high 10 assists and hit the go-ahead three.QUOTABLES:
#GothicKnightInsights Postgame Interview with Coach Marc Brown, Sam Toney (Plainfield, NJ/Williamstown) and James Julius (Linden, NJ/Linden):
- Series: 137th known meeting. NJCU leads all-time, 100-37, winning the last eight meetings.
- Sam Toney (Plainfield, NJ/Williamstown) scored in double figures for the 26th time in 37 career games.
- Sam Toney (Plainfield, NJ/Williamstown) scored at least 20 points in a game for the ninth time in his career and the sixth time in eight games this season.
- Sam Toney (Plainfield, NJ/Williamstown) scored 30 or more for the third time in his career—all in the last week. The 31 points was his second highest scoring total.
- Toney reached double figures in rebounds for the ninth time in his career.
- Toney produced his eighth career double-double and third of the season.
- James Julius (Linden, NJ/Linden) reached double figures in scoring for the 14th time in his career and third time this season
- Lavrone Green (Teaneck, NJ/Teaneck) reached double figures in scoring for the sixth time in eight games as a Gothic Knight.
- Yuri Brutus (Roselle, NJ/Roselle Park) reached double figures in scoring for the second time this season and the 16th time in his career.
- Shaquan Worthy (Trenton, NJ/Trenton Central)'s previous high for assists was seven in a season-opening win over Stevens on November 15.
- In one of the marquee games in the region, NJCU puts its winning streak on the line on Saturday, December 9 when it challenges The College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J. at 3 p.m. It will be the 142nd known meeting during the NJAC era (1955-56). NJCU leads, 76-45, defeating TCNJ in the NJAC Quarterfinals in Ewing on February 21, 2017. The Lions are 7-1 overall, 4-0 in the NJAC and tied with NJCU and Ramapo for first place. TCNJ has won its last seven games.
If NJCU wins it will set a school record by starting a season at 9-0 for the first time in the 85-year
history of the program.
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