Lange’s second half performance sparks Kean to a comeback win over Rutgers-Newark
Kean used strong defense and 17 points from Payce Lange as the Cougars defeated Rutgers-Newark in a rematch of last season’s NJAC title game.
the Senior guard Payce Lange might have been the most frustrated player on the Kean Cougars roster going into halftime. Down 35-22 to Rutgers-Newark Scarlet Raiders, the Cougars struggled on both ends of the floor and looked utterly outmatched.
It wouldn’t be long before that frustration would turn into a comeback though.
Fueled by a sensational third-quarter performance by Lange and some great second-half defense, the Kean Cougars women’s basketball team overcame a 13-point deficit to surge past the Rutgers-Newark Scarlet Raiders, 66-59. With the win, the Cougars improved to 4-2 (2-0 NJAC), while the Scarlet Raiders fell to 1-5 (0-2 NJAC).
This win will also help to heal the wounds of Kean’s devastating 54-47 defeat to the Rutgers-Newark in the New Jersey Athletic Conference championship game last year. Kean’s players, along with head coach Mandy King, have not forgotten about the pain of losing that game.
“From an emotional standpoint, it’s hard not to treat this game differently than others,” King said.
The game started very sluggishly as both teams struggled to find an offensive rhythm for much of the first quarter. However, Rutgers Newark slowly found their offensive groove towards the end of the quarter, getting to the foul line and converting on defensive breakdowns on the interior.
Eventually, the Scarlet Raiders would pull away towards the end of the quarter. Senior guard/forward Hannah Ashby, who finished with 10 points in the game, nailed a jumper with six seconds remaining in the quarter to give Rutgers-Newark a 19-10 lead at the end of the half.
The second half was more of the same for the Scarlet Raiders, as they continued to punish Cougar defenders in the paint at will. The Scarlet Raiders lead would stretch to 12 as the Cougars would finish the second quarter on a 12-4 run, with the score being 35-22 at the half.
Despite the Cougars out-rebounding the Scarlet Raiders 23-15 in the first half, they failed to convert off second-chance points. They also suffered from occasional defensive lapses. The Scarlet Knights also made it a priority to shut down the Cougars scoring duo of Lange and sophomore guard Shannon McCoy, as they only combined for just 10 points in the half.
The Cougars didn’t do themselves any favors at the foul line as well, only shooting 40 percent from the stripe in the first half, as opposed to the Scarlet Knights’ 77 percent.
“That’s the biggest thing that we have to improve on moving forward,” King said. “We [draw] a lot of fouls, but we continue to shoot such a poor percentage from the field.”
However, a frustrated and motivated Kean Cougars squad would come out strong in the third quarter and play a more physical brand of basketball in the second half. To make matters worse for the Scarlet Raiders, a technical foul on head coach Ashley Cieplicki midway through the third quarter would further give the Cougars momentum. A 13-4 run capped off by a jumper by Lange would cut the Scarlet Raiders lead to 39-37 with 6:23 remaining in the period.
Lange, who had 12 points in the quarter and 17 overall, believes that the team came out with a lot more intensity in the second half, which completely flipped the game in the Cougars’ favor.
“I was frustrated that we were getting into foul trouble,” Lange said. “But I came out with the mentality that we needed to pick up our energy and work together more, and eventually [I knew] that our game would come back to us and it did.”
However, the Scarlet Raiders maintained a 50-49 lead going into the fourth quarter, mainly due to the steady hand of senior guard Louise Ann Borja, who finished with 19 points in the game on 7-11 shooting.
McCoy, who also had a marvelous third-quarter performance with 10 points (15 overall) came out of the game with an apparent ankle injury late in the quarter but did return in the 4th quarter to the relief of Cougar fans.
This would not slow down the Cougars, however, as an 8-0 run to start the 4th quarter would put the lead in their hands for good, as a three-pointer by sophomore guard Sarah Oliverio with 7:08 remaining gave the Kean a 57-50 lead. The Cougars would continue to play shutdown defense and convert on some late-game free throws to earn a tough-win over a very underrated Scarlet Raiders team.
Along with Lange and McCoy’s huge second-half heroics, the Cougars continued to stretch their lead in the rebounding department. This time, they converted these second-chance points, which proved to play a massive role in the momentum shift. McCoy, Lange, and junior forward/guard Casey Filiaut were all over the boards during the game and did a better job boxing out and getting extra opportunities.
“Our post players work really hard down low, so us guards always try and rebound to relieve pressure from them,” Lange said. “We call this the ‘low go’ rebound, with two guards going in for the rebound while the others are back.”
The Cougars will be back in action on the road to face Montclair State on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Scarlet Raiders will look to bounce back in a home matchup against The College of New Jersey on Saturday at 6 p.m.
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