|DeShawn Lowman has scored 460 points this year through Wednesday night's game, making him the Knights' all-time leading scorer.
Neumann athletics photo by Hunter Martin
Neumann has mostly dominated its opponents this season. Entering Wednesday, the Knights had won 21 games, 19 of them by double digits.
The common theory when a team has this kind of success, winning most of its games comfortably, is that it will be unprepared for the intensity of the postseason. That it will be complacent.
So the Knights’ most recent win, 73-69 over Cabrini on Wednesday, was huge. Not only did No. 20 Neumann (22-2, 16-1 CSAC) clinch the CSAC regular-season title, but the Knights also proved for just the second time this season that they could gut out a win of four points or fewer. Neumann’s only other victory with that kind of margin was an 85-83 overtime win over Rosemont on Jan. 18.
In the other games this season that ended with four or fewer points separating Neumann and its opponent, the Knights lost. On Feb. 8, Neumann fell 97-96 in overtime at Rosemont. Neumann had led by 17 points with 11:10 left in regulation and by 10 with 2:01 remaining. Rosemont’s full-court pressure rattled Newman, Knights guard DeShawn Lowman said.
“We weren’t used to that,” Lowman, a senior, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “I’m actually glad that they actually brought that full-court press to the second half, because now once we get into the playoffs, we’ll be ready for that.”
Neumann’s first loss, 68-67 on Jan. 9 at Rutgers-Camden, taught the Knights never to overlook an opponent, Lowman said. Rutgers-Camden had entered that game with just one win.
“We took them lightly,” Lowman said. “We didn’t really approach the game with enough seriousness. That day before, we kind of were lackadaisical at practice.”
Neumann won eight consecutive games after that loss, starting with a 92-79 victory at Immaculata. The Knights took care of Clarks Summit, another one-win team, with an 87-47 win on Jan. 21. And after losing at Rosemont, the Knights won on Saturday, 103-74 over Cairn.
Lowman scored a game-high 29 points against Cairn and then had a game-high 24 points against Cabrini. He leads Neumann with 19.2 points per game and has scored 20 or more points in 11 games this year. At Keystone on Jan. 25, he had 32 points.
Senior forward Darian Barnes and senior forward Carl Wallace are also potent scorers. Wallace was close to perfect from the field in Neumann’s three games prior to Wednesday. He was five-for-six at Centenary on Feb. 4, eight-for-11 at Rosemont on Feb. 8, and eight-for-10 against Cairn on Feb. 11.
Against Cabrini, Wallace made seven of 15 field goals and scored 17 points. Barnes also had 17 points, making nine of 11 free throws.
Head coach Jim Rullo had predicted that Wednesday’s game would prepare Neumann for the upcoming CSAC tournament and a potential NCAA tournament run.
“It should be a playoff-like atmosphere,” Rullo said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “It should be another great test for us.”
Ramapo (23-2, 15-2 NJAC) won 78-70. After the game, head coach Chuck McBreen noted that his team was outscored by 30 points at the three-point line in each of its losses this year. At New Jersey City on Jan. 14, the Gothic Knights made 10 three-pointers, while Ramapo went 0-for-7 from beyond the arc. New Jersey City won in overtime, 76-71. At TCNJ on Feb. 4, the Lions made 13 three-pointers, while the Roadrunners made only three. TCNJ earned an 84-78 win.
New Jersey City outscored Ramapo at the three-point line again on Saturday, making 15 three-pointers to the Roadrunners’ eight. But because Ramapo had more success from beyond the arc than it had in the teams’ first meeting, McBreen said, the Roadrunners limited the Gothic Knights’ damage.
“We didn’t lose by 30” from three-point range, he said. “That was the difference in the game this time.”
Bonacum wasn’t thinking about that when he squared up for his three-pointers late in the second half. He just wanted to help his team.
“I knew I had to step up,” he said after the game. “I got open shots, and I knocked them down.”