Wednesday, January 17, 2007
By Mike Ballard
CAMDEN Junior center Mark Aziz (Hackettstown, NJ/West Morris) scored on a short baseline jumper with 22 seconds left in overtime and senior guard Brian Halligan (Delran, NJ/Delran) blocked a potential game-winning shot in the last seconds as The College of New Jersey outlasted Rutgers University-Camden, 65-62, in New Jersey Athletic Conference men’s basketball action here Wednesday night.
Rutgers-Camden falls to 4-12 overall and 0-5 in the NJAC with its 11th straight loss. TCNJ improves to 10-8 and 3-3 with its ninth straight win against the Scarlet Raptors. The Lions have won 39 of the last 40 games against Rutgers-Camden and own a 51-9 lead in the all-time series, but this one didn’t come easily.
With 19 seconds remaining in regulation, the Scarlet Raptors tied the game at 56-56 on a layup by senior guard Dane Nicholson (Pleasantville, NJ/Holy Spirit).
Nicholson scored on a jumper to start the overtime session, and Rutgers-Camden broke to a 59-56 lead following a foul shot by freshman guard Joshua Askew (Sicklerville, NJ/Winslow Township).
The Lions bounced back and took a 61-60 lead on a three-pointer by Halligan, but a pair of foul shots by senior forward Sydney Francis (Camden, NJ/Woodrow Wilson) put the Raptors ahead, 62-61, with 45.6 seconds left.
Aziz, who finished with a team-high 18 points, made his winning basket from the baseline with 22 seconds remaining. The Raptors’ last-ditch effort to regain the lead was thwarted when Halligan blocked a three-point attempt by freshman guard Rory Thornton (Vauxhall, NJ/Union) and Lions junior guard Drew Rosenfeld (Haddonfield, NJ/Camden Catholic) grabbed the rebound. Rosenfeld was fouled with 0.4 seconds remaining and sank a pair of free throws for the final margin.
With the first-half score tied at 21-21, TCNJ ran off nine straight points, sparked by a steal and a layup from sophomore guard Nick Nelson (Pemberton, NJ/Northern Burlington). Nelson had four points in the run for the Lions, which helped spark TCNJ to a 32-26 first-half lead.
Aziz had 10 points and eight rebounds in the first half for the Lions, while Francis had 11 first-half points for the Raptors.
Rutgers-Camden rallied back in the second half, cutting the deficit to one point on three occasions (46-45, 48-47 and 50-49) before sending the game to overtime at 56-56 on Nicholson’s basket.
In addition to 18 points from Aziz, the Lions received 15 from Halligan, 12 from junior guard Corey Gilmore (South Plainfield, NJ/South Plainfield) and 11 from freshman guard William Jett (Browns Mills, NJ/Pemberton). Aziz also had a game-high 12 rebounds.
For Rutgers-Camden, Francis had a game-high 23 points, while Askew added nine. Francis also led the Raptors with eight rebounds.
Nicholson, meanwhile, continued his climb on the Rutgers-Camden career charts. With seven points, he raised his career total to 1,012. He also notched four rebounds to climb over the 400 plateau, increasing his career total to 401. His two steals, meanwhile, raised his career total to 148 and put him two behind Gene Mergenthal (2000-04), who finished second on the career list with 150. The career leader, with 157, is Marvin Young (1977-81).
Both teams play NJAC home contests for their next game. Rutgers-Camden hosts Rutgers-Newark Saturday at 3 p.m. TCNJ entertains William Paterson University Wednesday, Jan. 24, at 7 p.m.