MONTCLAIR, N.J. (NJCUGothicKnights.com) | In a game that was a tale of two halves, the New Jersey City University women's basketball team played undefeated and No. 9/12 Montclair State University very close throughout the first half and trailed by just two, 37-35, at the intermission. However, the four-time defending New Jersey Athletic Conference champions pulled away in the third quarter as the Red Hawks forced eight NJCU turnovers in the period after the Gothic Knights only turned the ball over seven times in the first half, and went on to defeat NJCU, 77-63, on January 4 inside the Panzer Athletic Center.
Montclair State (13-0, 6-0 NJAC), ranked No. 9 by D3hoops.com and No. 12 by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, has won all but one game this year by double figures. The 63 points by NJCU (4-9, 0-6 NJAC) were the most by any Montclair opponent thus far in 2016-17. The first half featured six lead changes and four ties.
NJCU was led by five-time NJAC Rookie of the Week Tu'ziah Hall (Greenville, N.C./Bannecker (NC)), who scored a game-high 22 points (7-17 FG), including 12 points from three on 4-of-7 shooting, before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. The freshman guard tallied at least 20 points for the fourth straight game and fifth time this season.
Freshman Tiana Hill (Brandywine, Md./Gwynn Park (Md.)) added 13 points (4-10 FG), including 3-of-7 three-point shooting, dished out a team-high four assists, and forced a game-high four steals. Senior guard Kiana Briggs (Paterson, N.J./Passaic County Tech) scored eight points on 4-of-8 shooting overall and pulled down four boards in 26 minutes of play.
Montclair had four players score in double digits as it kept its unblemished record intact. Katie Sire fell one rebound short of a double-double performance as she led the Red Hawks with a game-high matching 22 points (9-14 FG) and nine rebounds in only 23 minutes on the court. Alex McKinnon tallied 13 points (5-7 FG) and had five assists in 24 minutes. Rachael Krauss scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds, while Kate Tobie contributed 10 points, four assists, and three steals in 19 minutes of action during Wednesday's victory.
The Red Hawks' interior presence was felt throughout the night as they outrebounded the Gothic Knights, 43-28, and held a 40-18 points in the paint advantage.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
The Gothic Knights started their first game of 2017 by playing Montclair close in the first half. NJCU trailed by one (16-15) at the end of the first quarter. After MSU went up by as many as six in the second quarter, NJCU came back to tie it at 33-33 with 1:13 to go when Hill knocked down a three. NJCU shot 60 percent from downtown, while limiting Montclair to 4-of-17 long-range shooting, and held a 13-7 turnover advantage as it headed into the locker room trailing only by two points, 37-35.
However, the third quarter proved to be the game's turning point as Montclair made necessary adjustments during the intermission. NJCU's eight turnovers in the period allowed Montclair to outscore NJCU, 25-12. Sire scored six of Montclair's points during an 8-0 run that started with her layup with 7:15 left in the quarter and the lead just two (43-41). The 70-second run ended with a free throw by Sire to give Montclair a 10-point lead (51-41) before growing its lead to 15 points (62-47) at the end of the third quarter.
The Red Hawks scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to take a 19-point lead (66-47), its biggest lead of the game, with 5:51 left in the final period of play. NJCU had multiple 5-0 runs throughout the fourth quarter to cut into the deficit, and outscored MSU in the period, but Montclair prevented its NJAC foe from getting any closer eight points when Hall hit a three with 1:10 left to play. Montclair scored the game's final six points to win by 14.
- 61st meeting. Montclair leads all-time series, 58-3, and has won the last 27 meetings since February 13, 2002.
- Tu'ziah Hall scored at least 20 points in a game for the fourth straight game and fifth time this season.
- Tianna Hill scored double digits in points for the second time this season and second straight outing.
- The 63 points were the most NJCU scored against Montclair State since it netted 62 points on December 3, 2008 in Montclair, N.J.
- NJCU's two-point halftime deficit was Montclair State's smallest halftime lead in the series since the two teams were tied 29-29 at the half in NJCU's 69-49 loss on January 17, 2015 in Jersey City, N.J.
- Montclair's win on Wednesday was the smallest margin of victory versus NJCU in more than eight years when it won by 12 (74-62) on December 3, 2008 in Montclair, N.J.
- The previous opponent high against Montclair State this year was William Paterson with 61 in an 81-61 loss on December 7.
The Gothic Knights play their first home game of the 2017 portion of its schedule when they take on Rowan University (9-4, 3-3 NJAC, Lost 1) on Saturday, January 7 at 1 p.m. at the John J. Moore Athletics and Fitness Center (Charlie Brown Court). It will be the 57th meeting. Rowan leads the all-time series, 44-12, and has won the last four meetings.