Newark had to shake off the rust when it hit the hardwood on Tuesday to take on Princeton in the Plano Christmas Classic.
The rust might not be entirely knocked off just yet, but there wasn’t any falling from the rim after Will Clausel netted the game winner with 0.5 seconds left to lift the Norsemen to a 60-59 come-from-behind victory.
Newark (7-1) had trailed 59-55 with under a minute left the final outcome appeared bleak for the Norsemen. Then, Dylan Patrick’s 3-pointer with 44 seconds left cut their deficit to 59-58.
“I knew I had to hit one for our team,” Patrick said. “That was good and then Will (Clausel) followed with a big shot.”
After forcing a turnover, Patrick once again decided it was a good time to bomb away, but his shot was off target. Fortunately, teammate Corey Jacobson was there to grab the offensive rebound and then send a quick pass to Clausel, who hammered home the jumper near the free throw line for the win.
“Corey got a big rebound and I would not have been able to do that without him,” Clausel said. “I found myself open and knocked it down.”
Tuesday's game marked Newark's first time on the court since Dec. 9 after a pair of game cancellations and a first-round tournament bye. Some teams don’t show any negative signs from a long layoff from playing, but Newark struggled all morning. For one thing, not many teams are accustomed to playing at 10:30 in the morning. Making things even more difficult is playing for the first time in 18 days.
“Our rhythm was off,” Clausel said. "We were dysfunctional offensively. We couldn’t make anything, but we have to figure it out. It’s not an excuse. We battled and hung around long enough and finally figured it out at the end.”
Princeton was dominant on the glass and punished the Norsemen with a strong inside presence from Colby Robbins (19 points), Colton Youngren (16 points) and Jacob Farraher (10 points).
“We were having trouble rebounding," Clausel said. “We just kind of came out and they kicked us at the start, but we battled. Our shooting was bad. It was just a weird game all in all.”
Unlike Newark, Princeton had just played, defeating Lisle in their tournament opener on Dec. 26.
“Our big guys battled hard underneath and played well while helping open things up for our guards,” Princeton coach Michael Fredericks said. “But Newark is a really good team. We knew we’d play them hard and fight them tooth and nail, and we’ve been in close games like this. Once again it came down to a big play at the end, and their guys made it.”
Clausel led the Norsemen with 22 points. He was one of their only players who enjoyed a good shooting day, making 8-of-12 shots from the field. Patrick scored 13 and Cameron Myre added 11, but the two combined to make just 9-of-32 shots.
A key was the turnover battle as Newark only committed nine compared to 17 by Princeton.
The Plano Christmas Classic continues through Friday, with Newark slated to face Morris in the quarterfinals on Dec. 28. Results were unavailable at press time.