GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – The Richard Stockton College men’s basketball team had a lot at stake Wednesday.
Playoff seeding, Senior Night and a home game against their biggest rival hung up in the air for the Ospreys when they faced Rowan University.
Stockton took care of its own business, beating Rowan 79-64 in its regular-season finale and earning the third seed in the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament.
The Ospreys (18-6 overall, 13-5 NJAC) could have gotten the second seed and a first-round bye if Rutgers-Newark had lost to Kean, but the Scarlet Raiders won 79-62. Stockton will host sixth-seeded New Jersey City at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“We had that in the back of our mind, but we also knew we had to come out here and play and prepare for the playoffs even if we were to lose,” said Stockton sophomore guard Josh Blamon, who finished with a team-high 19 points. “We still had to prepare for Saturday. We were going to use this game for preparation heading into the playoffs and hopefully make it further.”
The Ospreys were more physical and faster than Rowan (10-8, 17-8). In the second half, junior center Nnamdi Usuwa took over with his physical play.
Usuwa scored 11 of his 17 points in the second half. He also pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds while battling Rowan big man Dee Benson all game.
“Really what I was focused on was not scoring points but trying to play the best basketball I could play,” Usuwa said. “A good part of my game is I like being physical (and) I like to rebound, so I was pretty much just doing that. I started off playing good defense and rebounding and then everything else just comes together.”
At one point in the second half, Usuwa and Benson drew coincidental technical fouls.
“We got into a little thing, but that’s all just a part of the game,” Usuwa said. “He plays physical and I play physical, you know? It’s all about competition and I like competing.”
Stockton was all over Rowan from the opening tipoff. Jumping out a 14-4 lead seven minutes into the game, Stockton never let the Profs settle down, instead forcing them to take poor shots and make bad passes.
“It was exactly what we wanted to do,” Blamon said. “(Assistant) Coach (Scott) Bittner said even in practice that they don’t want to handle the ball if you put pressure on them. If you put pressure on them, they will turn the ball over and that’s exactly what happened.”
Stockton also drained its 3-pointers, knocking down 6-of-10 in the first half – three each from Blamon and Rich Suhr.
Rowan battled back early in the second half, led by senior Kendall White and his game-high 25 points. His three-pointer with 17 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in the game cut the Stockton lead to 47-41.
Stockton then went on an 11-3 run to keep its distance.
“They got it down to six or seven and then we got it right back up and kept it there,” Stockton coach Gerry Matthews said. “We kept making some pretty good plays.”
Rowan 32 32-64
Richard Stockton 41 38-79
R-Jackson 2 3-4 8, Rosenberg 4 0-0 9, Battee 1 0-0 2, Benson 2 1-2 5, White 9 3-3 25, Whitworth 1 0-0 2, Hills 1 0-0 2, Waynick 2 1-2 5, McNamara 3 0-1 6. Totals-25 8-12 64.
RS-K. Johnson 3 2-3 9, Hunt 1 2-2 4, Blamon 7 1-1 19, McCargo 0 4-4 4, Pistone 1 0-0 2, R. Johnson 2 3-5 7, Suhr 4 2-2 14, Greer 1 0-0 3, Usuwa 8 1-2 17. Totals-27 15-19 79.
3-pointers-White (4), Jackson, Rosenberg R. Blamon (4), Suhr (4), K. Johnson, Greer RS.
Records-Rowan 17-8 (10-8); Stockton 18-6 (13-5).