By Ann Brunn
The men’s basketball team dropped to 2-3 overall and 0-1 in New Jersey Athletic Conference play with losses to Swarthmore College and Stockton University.
On Nov. 20, the Lions had Swarthmore — the No. 1 team in the country — on the ropes late in the game, but they couldn’t pull through with the upset and fell 88-81. Three-pointers from senior guard Randy Walko and junior forward Travis Jocelyn, followed by foul shots from freshman forward Jim Clemente, put the Lions in front 15-7 with 12:54 to play in the first half.
Senior forward Ryan Jensen got hot minutes before halftime, scoring eight points in a row from a lay-up, converting the old-fashioned three-point play and cashing in from behind the arc. Just before the half, Walko connected on another three-pointer to give the Lions a 44-41 advantage.
Swarthmore came out strong after halftime and built a 57-49 lead over the Lions. Junior guard PJ Ringel countered this run with a strong take to the basket, followed by a Walko three, which cut the deficit to three, 57-54.
When it appeared as though Swarthmore was going to run away with the rest of the game, Jensen knocked down another three, assisted by Ringel and Jocelyn, to put the Lions in striking distance with three and a half minutes to go facing a six-points deficit.
The Lions hung on until the end of the game, but Swarthmore put an end to their hopes for an upset and held on for the seven-point victory.
Jensen paced the Lions with a double-double, scoring 27 points and collecting 10 rebounds. Jocelyn contributed 19 points and five boards, while Walko added 14 points. Ringel passed the ball around well and tallied seven assists.
The College was also edged by Stockton 79-77 in the NJAC season opener on Nov. 26 in Packer Hall. Walko and senior forward Mike Walley hit back-to-back threes to put the Lions up 8-3 early.
With under seven minutes to play in the first half, Stockton held a 34-27 lead, but a layup and dunk from Jocelyn and free throws by Walko had the Lions within four. Stockton took a 44-40 lead into the break.
The second half consisted of multiple lead changes, the largest being Stockton by seven with 13 minutes left to play. With under a minute to play and Stockon leading 74-71, Jensen came up with a crucial steal and was rewarded when Walko found him for three to tie the game at 74 with 49 seconds remaining.
Having a chance to seal the game up by two, Stockton missed two free throws, which opened the door for a Walley three with an assist by Ringel that gave the Lions a 77-76 lead. A foul call sent Stockton to the charity stripe for three shots, where it converted to steal the 79-77 win over the Lions.
Walley had a career-high night, scoring 20 points and shooting 5-of-9 from three-point land. Walko picked up 20 points along with Jocelyn, who cashed in 18 points. Jensen notched a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The Lions are back in Packer Hall tonight at 8 p.m., where they are looking for their first NJAC win of the season against Rowan University.