CAMDEN CITY, N.J. (Feb. 19, 2020) – The Montclair State University men’s basketball team rallied from an early 19-3 deficit and went on to outlast Rutgers University-Camden, 75-72, in a thrilling New Jersey Athletic Conference game that was the final contest of the season for both programs.
Despite their comeback win, the Red Hawks missed the six-team NJAC playoffs, finishing one game behind the three-way tie for seeds 4-6 between Rutgers-Newark, New Jersey City and Rowan, a trio of 10-8 teams. Montclair State finished 9-9 in the NJAC and 11-14 overall.
Rutgers-Camden closed its season with a 7-18 record and a 4-14 mark in the NJAC.
Montclair State leads the all-time series, 56-11, and has won 13 of its last 15 games against Rutgers-Camden, although the teams split their season series this year.
After the two teams split the first six points of the game, Rutgers-Camden rattled off 16 unanswered points, including 12 by junior guard Arian Azemi. Senior forward Isaac Destin added the other four points in the run as the Raptors took a 19-3 lead. By halftime, the Scarlet Raptors held a 48-34 lead, led by 21 points from Azemi and 16 from Destin.
Playing a must-win game, while hoping for outside help to make the playoffs, Montclair State came out with a purpose in the second half. After a layup by Destin gave the Raptors a 50-34 lead, the Red Hawks rattled off 17 straight points, including a pair of foul shots by senior forward/center Eddie Emedoh, to take a 51-50 lead.
The Scarlet Raptors regained the lead on a layup by junior guard Keysean Simmonds, setting the stage for a wild final 15 minutes, which featured five lead changes and five ties. With 4:49 remaining, a layup by Azemi gave the Scarlet Raptors their final lead, 66-65. Montclair State took the lead for good moments later on a three-pointer by junior forward Joseph Radi, making it a 68-66 game.
The Red Hawks’ lead fluctuated from 2-5 points the rest of the way. In the final minute, Montclair State held a 75-70 lead before the Raptors’ freshman forward Dylan Trow hit a late layup to make it a 75-72 game. After a turnover, the Raptors had one last chance to tie the game in the final 10 seconds, but missed a pair of treys.
Senior forward Jalen Parham finished with 17 points to lead three Red Hawks in double figures. Radi scored 16, and added a team-high nine rebounds, while senior guard Nate Nahirny tallied 14 points.
Azemi scored a game-high 27 points, while Destin finished with his 10th double-double of the season, scoring 26 points and adding 10 rebounds. Azemi also had a game-high six assists, while tying Montclair State junior guard Tim Algenio for game-high honors with four steals.
The Red Hawks shot 29-for-60 from the floor (48.3 percent), while the Raptors were 27-for-52 (51.9). Rutgers-Camden held a 34-32 edge off the boards, but also made two more turnovers (23-21).
Destin’s 26 points helped him edge past Cetshwayo Byrd (1,300 points from 1990-94) and finish in sixth place on the program’s career list with 1,302 points. He also finished fifth in career rebounds (604) and third in blocks (68).
Isaac Destin and Azemi finished 1-2 on the team in scoring with averages of 20.0 and 18.8, respectively. Azemi also set the program’s single-season record for steals with 81.