Updated: Dec 18, 2019
For the first time in three weeks, the Yeshiva University Maccabees will return home to the Max Stern Athletic Center. Tonight, they will be facing a New Jersey City University team which has lost just eight games in each of the last four seasons, and made the NCAA DIII Tournament for three years in a row. However, if the NJCU Gothic Knights would like to keep either of these streaks going, they will have to find a way to turn around their season. The 2019-20 NJAC preseason favorites are just 4-5 overall, and 2-3 in their conference. NJCU is also coming off of their worst performance in recent memory, as they put up just 46 points in a loss to Rutgers-Newark on Sunday. It is important for them, therefore, to get some momentum going; tonight’s game will be their last before winter break, and they will most certainly be looking for a statement win against Yeshiva.
The issue so far for the Gothic Knights appears to be chemistry-related. 13 of the 16 players on NJCU’s roster are newcomers to the program, and despite being tremendously talented, they have played inconsistently as a team this season. However, their two returning starters—Sam Toney and Denzel Banks—have not slowed down. Banks, who is listed at 6’2”, plays bigger than this, and loves to attack the rim. He can also go up high to grab rebounds. Toney, a 6’4” power forward, reminds Coach Steinmetz of Gabe Leifer, in that he knows how to use his body down low, and can shoot the three ball pretty well. Among the awards Toney has amassed in his college career are: 2018-19 NABC First Team All-America; 2017-18 and 2018-19 NJAC Player of the Year; 2018-19 Atlantic Region Player of the Year. [Editors’ Note: Toney also has an incredible life story; he was homeless just a few years ago, and I advise everyone to read this inspirational article, written by a USA Today affiliate.]
The most interesting player on NJCU is undoubtedly 6’9” senior Quadri Moore, who at one point in high school was ranked as a top-125 prospect in the country. However, things didn’t work out for Moore at Cincinnati, and now, in his final year of college ball, he finds himself wearing green and gold. Moore’s past struggles likely come from the fact that he often settles for long twos, instead of using his huge frame in the post. He is averaging only 17.7 minutes/game this season, but makes the most of his time on the floor, as he can both score and grab rebounds. Besides for these three, there are no clear ‘starters’ for NJCU, as nine different players have been on the floor for the tip-off this season. However, watch for Kayton Darley and Jahmere Calhoun to receive heavy playing time; both are athletic and can shoot the ball well while also crashing the boards.
NJCU typically runs pick and roll action, and places the shooter on the opposite side of the pick. They also like to get out in transition, and create early offense. The Gothic Knights play penetration-heavy basketball, using their size and athleticism to dominate inside, and shoot some threes.
Keys to the Game:
1) Box Out
This is one of the areas which the Macs have struggled with as a team this year
It becomes all the more important tonight, as they face a team which is bigger, stronger, and more athletic than they are
Every YU player who finds himself near the rim when a shot is being taken must body up a man
The Macs will use one player (not two) to body up Moore when the 6’9” center is in the game
Failing to box out on every possession is a surefire way to give NJCU free points
2) Aggressively Defend the Pick and Roll
This is NJCU’s main source of offense, so whether or not they can execute it may decide the game
The Macs should pressure and attack the ball, in order to increase NJCU’s chances of making a mistake and turning the ball over
If the screener is not a good three-point shooter, but the ball-handler can shoot, the Macs should either trap or set a hard hedge and recover
If the ball-handler is excellent at penetrating the defense and driving to the rim, the Macs should set a soft hedge
It is critical that the YU players communicate whenever they see a ball screen being set
3) Get Post Touches
The Macs’ offense revolves around getting post touches and reversing the ball
Against Eastern Connecticut State, the Macs went away from getting post touches in the first half, and struggled somewhat offensively
Getting the ball in the post opens up opportunities to score on post-ups, cuts to the rim, and threes, and is effective even against strong, athletic teams like NJCU
What Should We Expect in Tonight’s Matchup?
The last time these two teams faced each other was in 1993, when the Macs competed in the ECAC, so NJCU is not a familiar opponent. On paper, the Gothic Knights and Macs match up pretty evenly, but YU has clearly played much better this season than NJCU. The Gothic Knights and Macs have played both CMSV and Farmingdale State; NJCU won these games by 19 and 5, respectively, while YU won by 29 over the Dolphins and 5 over the Rams. However, on multiple occasions, including in their last game, NJCU put up an underwhelming performance.
I wouldn’t describe tonight’s game as a potential trap game; rather, pay little attention to NJCU’s 4-5 record. Coach Marc Brown, who has been with the team for 13 years, will most certainly have his team fired up for this game, and I would expect the Gothic Knights to play with extra intensity. If NJCU plays to preseason expectations, then we are in for a great game; if they continue to disappoint, the Macs will win easily. I would peg YU as 6 point favorites, but due to NJCU’s inconsistency this year, I have very low confidence in this number. I would not be surprised one bit if YU lost, nor would I be shocked if the Macs won by 20 points.
How to Watch/Follow:
The Macs last home game in 2019 will tip-off at 8 PM. We will be broadcasting the game, beginning at 7:50 with the MacsLive Pregame Show. There will also be a pregame ceremony on the occasion of Simcha Halpert reaching 1500 points in his collegiate career, as well as a moment of silence following the shooting in Jersey City last week. Click here to watch the broadcast. If you are unable to watch, click here to access our in-game scoreboard. After the game, make sure to check out MacsLive.com for the recap, as well as our YouTube channel (MacsLive) for the full game broadcast and highlights.