CAMDEN, NJ – The TCNJ men’s basketball team ended the first half on an extended run and never looked back as they rolled past Rutgers-Camden (64-45) in Tuesday night’s NJAC opener.
The league cap lift was all about quality over quantity for the Lions (2-2, 1-0), who overcame a multitude of turnovers with efficient shooting and smothering defense that allowed the Scarlet Raptors to shoot 22 more than they did to make guests.
The discrepancy hardly mattered to TCNJ, who scored 57.9 percent for the night (22 of 38) and made all 11 free-throw attempts while keeping the hosts at a cold 26.7 percent mark (16 of 60).
Anthony DiCaro ended with a game-high 12 points remaining with four rebounds and five assists for the Lions. Danny Bodine had nine points, four rebounds and five blocks while Trevor Covey score eight points and Naysean Burch and Jason Larranaga chipped seven each.
The first half ended with TCNJ leading by 15, but it took an unconventional route to achieve that lead. In the first 20 minutes, the Lions had 14 turnovers, but when they fired a shot, it was almost always on target. Thanks to an almost perfect shooting performance and an enormous defensive intensity, the guests overcame the many mistakes with ease.
TCNJ was a remarkable 9-of-12 from the field for the first 20 minutes, making all but one of his attempts from beyond the arc. Covey and DiCaro led the long-range fire, each making a pair of threes and scoring eight points; Covey sunk his two 3-point attempts and every one of his free throws in the first half.
Camden, on the other hand, was ice cold from the perimeter in the first half – and hardly ever got warm. The Scarlet Raptors battled for a performance of 6 out of 30 overall, making only three of their 20 attempts from distance. When a 3-pointer from Cameron Downs stopped a four-minute goalless drought and a string of six straight misses to open the second half, the Lions had established a 38-17 lead.
TCNJ trailed 6-2 early on but back-to-back threes were over Pat Higgins and DiCaro turned the tide and put the blue and gold on top forever. Covey paired at the stripe and then pinned his first three of the night before a pair of DiCaro free throws extended the lead to 15-7.
The Lions were still up 17-12 after 8:25 in the first half, pinning Rutgers-Camden with a single free throw over the next more than seven minutes of play and scoring 13 points of their own down that stretch to conquer one superior 30-13 advantage. Covey and DiCaro each hit a 3 during the crucial stretch, and Larranaga topped them with a three with just over a minute left at halftime.
The Scarlet Raptors’ cold spell extended into the second half, and TCNJ capitalized on extending the lead to 46-26 on Burch’s second consecutive left-hander at the 12-minute mark. Camden connected with a 3-pointer on the next two drives to take the deficit.
DiCaro quickly dashed any comeback hopes, hitting the free throw after a technical flop and burying a step back 3 from the corner. Jim Clemente Burch stepped out for another corner trey on the next drive, then found a slicing Bodine for a reverse layup, and before long the lead was 55-32 all the way to 23. The Lions led by as much as 26 before Camden ended up going under 20.
Matthew Solomon paired six points with six rebounds in 12 minutes off the bench, giving the Lions a 38-26 rebound advantage. Higgins picked up five rebounds on top of his five points.
Jackson beef got a layup, turned the rim several times and hit his second basket of the season in the final minute.
Bodine’s five blocks put him second on the program’s all-time list with 126 with Scott Findlay ’06. Bodine is nearing the all-time 138 mark held by Jimmy Glover in ’90. The graduate student was no problem on offense either, going 4-5 from the field Tuesday night to take him up to 68.6 percent for the season (24 of 35).
TCNJ has won 16 direct encounters with Rutgers-Camden.
The Lions return from the Thanksgiving break to face Rowan on November 30.