In the last game of the first annual Central N.Y. Classic, the men’s basketball team (3-2) handled previously unbeaten NJIT (4-1) 86-73. The win guaranteed the Red at least a share of the tournament’s title as they finished 3-1 beating Binghamton, Division III SUNY Canton and NJIT while falling to Colgate.
Senior guard Matt Morgan and sophomore forward Jimmy Boeheim led the way offensively for the Red. Morgan notched 34 points and seven rebounds while climbing into 10th place all time for points scored in the Ivy League. Yesterday’s matchup with NJIT marked Morgan’s 56th game straight scoring in double digits and ninth game over the past four years Morgan has scored 30+.
“[Matt] is a dynamic player,” said head coach Brian Earl. “He has really high level athleticism, but I’ve always thought that his basketball IQ is as good as anyone I’ve coached. That is a little known fact that people don’t celebrate as much as they should. He consistently understands everything we’re trying to do and does it at a very high level.”
Boeheim and senior guard Jack Gordon were the only other two players for the Red who hit double digits with 15 and 10 points, respectively. The Red’s shooting percentage improved dramatically as they shot 65 percent from the field, 45 percent from behind the three point line and 85 percent from the free throw line. At one point in the second half the Red led the Highlanders by 21 points.
Following Saturday’s victory over NJIT, the Red head into a three-game away stretch marked with tough matchups against UConn, Lafayette and Syracuse. Earl emphasized the importance of maintaining defensive intensity through these matchups.
“We’re trying to make defense the cornerstone of what we’re doing. Even with the losses where we’ve fallen apart because our offense hasn’t been there, I think our defense has steadily been improving. For 35 minutes last night we kept [NJIT] in the 50s and that’s what we are about.”
While Earl has clearly placed a premium on his team’s defensive production and intensity, Red fans should keep a close eye on the team’s offensive efficiency and production. The Red succeeded against NJIT in part due to Morgan’s 34, but also because he had significant support from the rest of the starting five and bench. Whether or not the Red can keep this up through matchups with UConn, Lafayette and Syracuse will be a key to success.
The Red will tip off at UConn Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. as they look to maintain their unbeaten away record so far. The game will be broadcasted live on ESPN3 and streamed live via watchespn.com.