By Brian Pujada
One of the more famous quotes in the world of sports was given to us by Bert Bell and it is usually conveyed as follows: “On any given Sunday, any team can beat any other team.”
Perhaps this is why many in the college basketball universe did not give the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders much of a chance against the nationally ranked Michigan Wolverines in a Saturday afternoon matchup at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
In 2013, NJIT's athletic expenses were $9,079,509. Michigan's were $111,363,184. Michigan with more than 12 times the budget of NJIT.
— Joe Wright (@Sctvman) December 6, 2014
After all, the Wolverines, a 6-1 team, were ranked by the Associated Press at the start of the week as the 17th best Division I college basketball team in the nation.
As for the NJIT Highlanders, they were an unranked independent Division I team, facing their first ever ranked opponent as a Division I athletic program, and were playing without one of their best players, third-year forward, Terrence Smith.
And to top it all off, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook had NJIT as 23.5-point underdogs against Michigan. The Highlanders literally had the odds stacked against them.
Things certainly did not start the way the Highlanders would have liked it, as arguably Michigan’s best player, Caris LeVert, a 6’7” guard, got off to a good start. Not only did LeVert cause NJIT’s first turnover of the game, but he also made the first basket. The Wolverines did not stop there as they jumped out to an early 8-0 run to start the game.
But then about seven minutes into the game, NJIT made their first three pointer courtesy of Winfield Willis, a third-year guard. It would be the first of eleven threes that the Highlanders would make in seventeen attempts. Sophomore guard, Damon Lynn, made six of those threes, and none might have been bigger than the final three he made with just over 2 minutes left in the game that put the Highlanders up, 68-64.
Still, Michigan’s one-man show that is the third year guard, LeVert, kept the game close and shrunk NJIT’s lead to just one with 1:40 left in the game.
Senior forward, Daquan Holiday, essentially sealed the victory for the Highlanders when he made two key free throws for NJIT with just four seconds left, raising their total to 72. NJIT would proceed to hold off the Wolverines and complete the upset, the final score, 72-70.
In what was their first ever win against a ranked opponent, many fans of all social statuses chimed in and rejoiced in the Highlanders latest victory.
Amazing win by the NJIT Men's basketball team, defeating 17 ranked Michigan in Ann Arbor! Congrats Highlanders–making NJ proud!
— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) December 6, 2014
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) December 7, 2014
NJIT is Division I’s only independent basketball team, which means they stand alone, with no conference to call home. They remain without a conference and without an opportunity at an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, but after winning in Ann Arbor, they can be extremely proud that they’ll stand alone as one of the greatest upsets in recent college basketball history, even if it was on Saturday.
— Daquan Holiday (@DaquanHoliday) December 6, 2014
Photo courtesy of NJIT Athletics