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Ramapo College splits a pair of games at Classic in Las Vegas

Making their eighth appearance in the Classic at the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, the Ramapo College Roadrunners returned to the hardwood court after almost two weeks off while attempting to wipe the bad taste of getting swept in the tournament in 2017.

Facing Husson University on Friday night, the Roadrunners jumped out to a 40-33 advantage at halftime. Sparked by Kashaun Barnes tallying 14 of his game-high 26 points, the team welcomed back Bryant Quill and Matt Latka back to the lineup as both players were out a sustained amount of time due to injuries. Latka contributed 10 points and eight rebounds. Ramapo shot near 50 percent from the field while knocking down 11 of 16 free throws, leading in rebounds 22 to 14 and points in the paint 20 to 8.

After Husson trimmed the deficit to 47-44 with 13 minutes remaining, the Roadrunners went on a 13-3 run. The margin grew to as many as 18 with five minutes left but the Eagles refused to go away quietly, going on a 7-0 run in the span of about 40 seconds and a stifling defense that forced Ramapo into committing turnovers.

Back-to-back three-pointers made it 74-70 with 1:11 to go. With the score at 75-72, Rob Lewis (17 points, 9 rebounds) sank one of two free throws that proved to be enough; Husson drilled their 14th trifecta of the game to whittle the margin down to one point. Rob McWilliams managed to hit one of two free throws as the Roadrunners hung on for the victory.

Wrapping up the trip on Saturday night, Ramapo squared off against Linfield College. Once again the Roadrunners struggled to guard the three-point line as the Wildcats canned eight triples in the first half. Down by as many as 15 points, Kashaun Barnes rallied the troops pouring in 21 of his season-high 36 points including a midcourt buzzer beater, slicing the lead down to 41-32 heading into the locker room.

The surge continued early into the second half as the Roadrunners trimmed the advantage down to 43-41 with 17 minutes left. However, Linfield regained the momentum going on a 15-1 in the next five minutes. Ramapo displayed no quit storming back to make it a six-point contest at 67-61 with five minutes remaining. However, the Wildcats polished off the victory with a 16-4 run. Rob Lewis turned in another double-double performance with 14 rebounds and 11 points. Despite dominating points in the paint, the Roadrunners shot a paltry 34.8 percent from the field and 5 of 15 from beyond the arc.

Head Coach Chuck McBreen on the team performing in both games: “Friday night we were the much better team for 40 minutes but we came unglued in the last five. We had an 18-point lead with five minutes to go but same thing out of Farmingdale where we had a 20-point lead in the second half. Yesterday we were down six and let up a 16-4 run to end the game.”

“I don’t know what’s going on but we have to get it figured out with conference play the rest of the way. We have to find a way to focus and finish and we haven’t been able to do that in the last three games” McBreen continued.Kashaun’s play has been excellent, especially yesterday, and he carried us. Scoring 62 points in the tournament, averaging 31 points per game and able to do some nice things offensively.”

“It is a two-man show between Barnes and Rob Lewis and if we want to be relevant in the NJAC playoffs we’re going to need to get more balance and production out of our lineup. Right now we are lacking that. We’re winning categories, we want to win but we’re not taking care of the basketball and guarding the three-point line. Right now we’re not playing very consistent basketball and putting together 40 minutes and we have to get better”

After a week off, the Roadrunners return to action in 2019 with two very difficult road games starting first at TCNJ (7-5, 4-2 NJAC) on Saturday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. followed by at New Jersey City University (9-4, 4-2 NJAC) on Wednesday, January 9that 8:00 p.m. Currently, six teams are tied for second place in the conference.

McBreen on what Ramapo College accomplished in 2018: “A phenomenal year with the Final Four and the opportunity to play for a national championship culminated with me getting inducted into the (Ramapo College) Hall of Fame. It was a great honor and very humbling. So proud of these accomplishments but I’m mainly focused on the 2018-19 season. If you could have told me we would be 10-3 with this group I would have signed for it. Always looking for more but we have to settle for it and see what we can do in the New Year.”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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