Gritty Pioneers Defeated by TCNJ, 90-85

It took until the final minute for the TCNJ Lions to knock off the Pioneers


Ryan Doyle

Ryan Doyle, Editor-In-Chief

The William Paterson men’s basketball team (10-13, 6-10 NJAC) lost a nail-biter to The College of New Jersey (17-6, 13-3 NJAC), 90-85. In the final minutes, the Pioneers stormed back to into the game, but were unable to knock off a talented TCNJ squad.

With the Pioneers down four points with 20 seconds left in the ballgame, senior guard Galen Smith hit a clutch three-pointer and cut the lead down to one. TCNJ guard Eric Murdock Jr would then hit a pair of free throws. After a missed three from the Pioneers, the game was essentially over.

Tough losses have been commonplace for the Pioneers this season as they have lost six games by six points or less, including two overtime losses earlier in the year.

The star of the game for the Pioneers tonight was senior forward Richy Espinal. Espinal is having a phenomenal season and this game adds to his already impressive senior season. Espinal scored 16 points, grabbed 6 rebounds and had a whopping 5 blocked shots on the night.

On the defensive side of the ball, Espinal was phenomenal. Up against taller forwards, Espinal used his athleticism to contest shots. He also had back-to-back steals with just over 4 minutes left in the contest that turned the tables and put the Pioneers in a position come back and win the ballgame.

The Pioneers had six players score in double-digits including Smith and junior guard Dapo Badmos, who added 3 assists and 5 boards to his stat sheet.The trio of guards Joseph Taylor, Zach Frick and Peter Martinez were also a key for the Pioneers offensively. All three were effective from behind the arc and when driving to the bucket.

An under-the-radar contributor was sophomore guard Anthony Uribe. He led the team in assists with 5 and also was active on the glass with 5 rebounds. He also hit two clutch free throws to give the Pioneers their only lead of the night.

The Pioneers’ back court was strong tonight. They didn’t matchup well in the size department, but they used their speed and quickness to attack the rim and score. Even when the shot wasn’t there, they were able to kick it out to shooters on the wings.

One issue for the Pioneers was rebounding. The Lions won the battle on the glass 44-28 and had a whopping 16 second chance points. Typically, this would lead to a bigger margin in the points in the paint category, but the Pioneers finished at the rim all night long.

The three-ball was effective for the Lions in the first half as they shot 7-for-13 from deep. WPU was focused on their size to much and left the shooters open. The Pioneers did adjust and held the Lions to only 4 three-pointers in the second half.

TCNJ was led by senior forward Corey Stanford, junior forward Elias Bermudez and Murdock. Stanford, had a double-double with 21 points and 17 rebounds. Bermudez and Murcock had 18 and 22 points respectively.

The Pioneers next matchup is against Rutgers-Camden on Saturday Feb. 11 in Camden, New Jersey. Followed by their final regular season game at home vs. Kean University.