GLASSBORO — Jesse Hunt has spent hours after practice this season shooting 3-pointers.
All the work paid off Wednesday night at just the right time.
Hunt went 5-for-7 from 3-point range and scored a game-high 19 points as the Richard Stockton College men’s basketball team rallied to beat archrival Rowan University 68-64 in a New Jersey Athletic Conference road game.
The Ospreys (11-2 overall, 7-1 NJAC) moved into a tie for first place in the conference with Ramapo, which visits Stockton on Saturday at 3 p.m.
“We wanted to get this win really bad,” Hunt said. “We really wanted to beat them so we could make a statement.”
Stockton coach Gerry Matthews said this “has to be up there” among the best Stockton-Rowan games in his 27 years there.
Rowan (10-4, 4-4 NJAC) led for much of the game, but Stockton used a 13-0 run to go ahead 50-49 just past the midway point of the second half. Hunt had a 3-pointer and Mike Perry made two from long range during the run.
After Rowan answered with a 10-4 run, Hunt eventually tied it back up at 61-61 with another 3-pointer.
Then, in the final minute, with Stockton down 64-63, Hunt hit yet another 3 to put the Ospreys ahead for good.
The visitors’ section of the crowd went wild after each of his 3-pointers, but Hunt said they all felt just like the ones he shoots in the gym back in Galloway Township.
“I didn’t feel it, really,” the sophomore guard said. “It was just a regular shot. I guess I’ve got confidence now, and I shoot a lot, so I’m used to it. There weren’t, like, nerves or anything.”
The Ospreys took all those deep shots because Rowan used a zone for much of the second half with point guard Jason Rosenberg in foul trouble.
“They went to the zone so we just had to show that we could shoot a little bit,” said Perry, who scored all seven of his points during the 13-0 run. “They kept fighting back because it kept going back and forth for a while, so we had to just stay hot and hope to pull the game out.”
Rosenberg played just 29 minutes, and Rowan also was hurt by the absence of forward Brendan Cox, the team’s second-leading scorer, who was suspended one game for a violation of team rules.
Still, Rosenberg said Rowan should have won and needs to learn to pull out close games.
“When it’s time to grind, they took it more personal than we did and we let this game slip out of their hands,” Rosenberg said.
Matthews said he challenged his team during a timeout with six minutes remaining and Rowan leading 59-54.
“I said, ‘Hey, look, we’ve got to get a stop,’ ” Matthews said. “ ‘You can’t keep tying the score up and then going down five or seven. That’s going to catch up to you. We’ve got to get a stop right here and score.’ And we did.”
The crowd of 318 was rowdy throughout the game, especially in the second half when it became apparent that it would be a close one at the end.
“The crowd was definitely loud in here, and that’s what you play for,” Perry said. “When you play basketball, you play for the crowd, play for the big games, play for the close games like it was today. That’s what it’s all about.”
Rowan coach Joe Cassidy said the crowd was about half what it could have been if his school’s students were back from winter break, but he added that it was still an intense game.
“The rivalry’s great,” Cassidy said. “The outcome stunk.”
The outcome was exactly what Stockton needed, though, heading into Saturday’s showdown with Ramapo.
“The conference is pretty tight right now with us, Rowan and Ramapo, so we just wanted to show that we were the dominant team,” Perry said.
Contact Jason Mazda:
Richard Stockton College 32 36—68
Rowan University 41 23—64
RSC—Pistone 0 0-2 0, K. Johnson 2 3-4 8, Hunt 6 2-4 19, Suhr 1 0-0 2, McCargo 3 7-8 13, R. Johnson 5 2-5 12, Perry 2 1-2 7, Blamon 0 1-2 1, Usuwa 2 2-2 6. Totals 21 18-29 68.
RU—Benson2 0-0 4, Jackson 1 1-2 3, Rosenberg 4 2-4 11, McNamara 4 2-2 10, White 4 0-0 11, Whitworth 1 0-0 2, Waynick 2 0-0 4, Battee 5 3-3 15, Brogan 1 2-4 4. Totals 24 10-15 64.
3-pointers—K. Johnson, Hunt (5), Perry (2) RSC; Rosenberg, White (3), Battee (2) RU.
Records—Stockton 11-2, Rowan 10-4.