Lions hope big game can help campus heal
It has been a tough week on The College of New Jersey campus and an emotional week as students cope with the loss of a classmate.
Hopefully, athletics can be a needed distraction.
It might only be the first week of December, but the TCNJ women’s basketball team (5-3, 4-0 NJAC) has a huge conference contest on Saturday as six-time defending New Jersey Athletic Conference champions Montclair State (7-1. 4-0 NJAC) visits Packer Hall for a 1 p.m. tip.
“Montclair State is an incredibly well-coached team with a great history of success,” said TCNJ coach Chessie Jackson. “We have to treat them as we treat any other team. Scout with attention to detail and prepare the team. We are excited to play them in our gym in front of our community It’s another chance to earn a win, how fun is that.”
Lately, it’s been a lot of fun for the Lions as they are enjoying a four-game winning streak and playing like a team that was selected first in the preseason poll.
“The winning streak has been about taking it one day at a time and to continue growing and getting better,” said Jackson. “Our key players and leaders are finding more rhythm. Out point guard is gaining confidence with every practice and game. The pieces are starting to come together.”
A few of those pieces are Shannon Devitt, Jen Byrne and point guard Elle Cimilluca.
Devitt, who was the NJAC Rookie of the Year last season, averages 12.5 points per game and a conference-best 13.0 rebounds.
“Shannon is slowly, but surely gaining confidence and playing with more consistency,” said Jackson. “The thing about her is that she goes hard and performs like that every day in practice. I’m proud of her performance, but way more proud of her effort every day in practice.”
When it’s not Devitt causing trouble on the inside, it’s Byrne making life difficult all over the floor.
Byrne leads the team with 13.8 points and she grabs 8.8 caroms, but her biggest contribution is leadership.
“Jen is so solid and provides a presence on the court that is invaluable,” said Jackson. “She is not the most vocal player and she is not showy, but she digs deep in big moments and wants the ball.. There is leadership in that mindset and we need it right now.”
The Lions and the Red Hawks statistically are almost a carbon copy of each other, both offensively and defensively.
Alex McKinnon (14.9 points per game) and Kim Calloway (11.9) are MSU’s top two scorers and McKinnon grabs 7.1 rebounds per game.
If the Lions can continue to hit the boards that would give them a small advantage since Montclair State has a few more offensive weapons.
It might just be December, but it’s the biggest game in the NJAC.