NJIT Athletics Week 11

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NJIT Athletics Issue 11

Bucknell Sweeps Visiting Highlanders

Karen Campbell and Erika Eastley each had 10 kills, leading the attack for victorious Bucknell, which swept visiting NJIT in 3 sets (25-18, 25-17, and 25-21) Saturday afternoon in women’s volleyball.  Taking on back-to-back tests against teams nicknamed the Bison in less than 24 hours, the Highlanders got a 3-0 win on Friday vs. Howard, followed by a 3-0 loss at Bucknell on Saturday afternoon. Oddly, the Highlanders scored a 3-0 victory against the Bison with a stellar record (18-9 Howard on Friday) and lost in straight sets to the Bucknell Bison, who came in at 6-18.  On Friday night in NJIT’s final 2014 home match, the Highlanders swept the Howard Bison, who came in with an 18-9 record that included what had been an ongoing 9-match winning streak and wins in 11 of Howard’s previous 12 matches.  Bucknell, playing the final match of its 2014 when it hosted the Highlanders, finishes the year with an overall record of 7-18. Three of the seven wins, including the one vs. NJIT, came by 3-0 scores in Bucknell’s final four matches of the season.  NJIT is 11-20 with four matches to be played on the upcoming weekend.  Both Bucknell kills leaders had efficient hitting matches. Eastley, a sophomore middle, made just 2 errors to go with her 10 kills in 20 attempts for a .400 hitting percentage. Campbell, a junior middle, made one more error and took two more swings, but still posted a strong .318 hitting percentage.  Junior setter Meghan Wetzel triggered the Bison attack with a match-best 32 assists and the winners served 6 aces, half of which came from Eastley.  Bucknell did not do much damage at the net on defense, finishing with just 2 total team blocks. On the floor, the Bison got a match-best 20 digs from sophomore libero Kristen Parks.  NJIT had one of its worst hitting matches of season, notching 32 kills, but committing 27 attack errors. With Bucknell getting just two blocks, that meant 25 of the errors were unforced, either hit out of bounds or into the net.  Nina Vukotic was the kills leader for NJIT, registering 10. Senior Fran Edmondsonhad 7 kills and only 2 errors, but, excluding her, the rest of the team had 25 kills and 25 errors, a statistic that is all but impossible for a team to overcome.  Setter Alyssa Armada collected 29 of NJIT’s 32 assists and the Highlanders managed two aces as a team, one each from twin sisters Nina Vukotic and Danica Vukotic.  On defense, NJIT actually had one more dig than Bucknell, 43-42. Senior libero Camilla Tinari led with 11 digs, while Edmondson and the Vukotic twins each checked in with 8 digs.  The only statistical area in which the Highlanders had a decided edge was in total team blocks, 5.0-to-2.0. Freshman Shani Leacock had a block solo and 3 block assists, while Edmondson added 3 block assists.  The first set ended with Bucknell on top 25-18, but there 11 ties and 6 lead changes. The score got to 18-16 for Bucknell with neither team leading by more than two, but the Bison dominated the stretch run, 7-2. Bucknell kills on three of the last four points to close out the frame, with an Eastley kill earning set point.  NJIT led briefly in the second set, 2-1 abd 3-2, but Bucknell came back for a 4-3 lead and never trailed the set again. The Bison finished off the second frame on a 6-1 run.  The clinching set for victorious Bucknell had 6 ties and 2 lead changes, NJIT built an early 8-5 lead and stayed ahead until 13-13. The teams traded points before an NJIT hitting error put Bucknell on top, 15-14. The Bison never relinquished the lead and used a 6-0 spurt that began with 3 consecutive NJIT errors, one serving and two attacking, to pull ahead 22-15.  Danica Vukotic had back-to-back kills to give NJIT some hope at 17-22, but Bucknell’s Campbell answered with a kill and the Bison finished off the set and match ending with a Jordan Walker kill and a 25-21 win of the clinching set.  Having played its first 31 matches along the East Coast, NJIT will finish off the 2014 season in Phoenix, AZ, where it will compete in a tournament hosted by Grand Canyon University on November 21 and 22.  On November 21, Friday, the Highlanders will take on University of Nebraska Omaha and Incarnate Word from San Antonio, TX. On Saturday, NJIT will face UMass Lowell and then host Grand Canyon. The only squad the Highlanders have faced previously is UMass Lowell, which swept the Highlanders, 3-0, on September 27 in Lowell.

St. John’s Takes Down Highlanders in Men’s Basketball Season Opener

Sophomore guard Rysheed Jordan’s game-high 18 points led five double-figure scorers for St. John’s in a  77-58 win over visiting NJIT in the 2014-15 men’s basketball season opener for both teams Friday night in Carnesecca Arena on the St. John’s campus.  Jordan, an All-Rookie selection in the BIG EAST Conference last season as a freshman, scored 14 of his points in the second half for the Red Storm. The winners got 13 points apiece from junior center Chris Obekpa and senior swingman Sir’Dominic Pointer; 11 off the bench from senior guard Jamal Branch; and 10 from D’Angelo Harrison, a senior who was first-team All-BIG EAST as a junior. Jordan was also the game’s assists leader, with 5 for St. John’s.  Obekpa and Pointer each finished the game with double-doubles, as the 6-foot-10 Obekpa grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds and also added 4 blocked shots and Pointer finished with 10 rebounds to go with his 13 points.  Despite having those two players with more individual rebounds than anyone on the smaller Highlanders, St. John’s held a relatively small advantage in total rebounds, 46-40.  NJIT, which shot less than 30 percent from the field (28.3 percent on 17-for-60) for the game, had three double-figure scorers led by sophomore Damon Lynn‘s 15 points. Junior Ky Howard came off the bench for 11 points and a team-best 7 rebounds and senior Daquan Holiday matched his career-best scoring  vs. a Division I opponent with 10 points, all of which came in the second half. Holiday had scored as many as 10 points against three previous Division I foes.  For all intents and purposes, the winner was decided long before the first half had expired and the reason was a brutal shooting start for the visitors. At the third media timeout of the opening half, NJIT trailed on the scoreboard, 25-8, and the Highlanders’ shooting numbers were 3-for-17 on all shots from the field, 2-for-7 on 3-point tries and 0-for-5 at the foul line, including two misses on the front end of possible one-and-one opportunities.  A few more shots went down for the Highlanders in the later stages of the opening half, but they still trailed at the break, 37-19.  St. John’s extended that 18-point halftime lead to as many as 22 points early in the second half, going up 43-21 when Harrison made the first of two free throws with 17:53 showing on the clock.  The Highlanders, who would double their shooting accuracy from the first half to the second half, made a couple of mini-runs to plant a kernel of doubt, however fleeting, in the minds of the home faithful.  A traditional 3-point play on a driving bucket and free throw by Howard, trimmed the St. John’s bulge that had been 22 points at 12:14, down to 16, 52-36, 43 seconds later.  Jordan scored to break the Highlander surge briefly. But then sophomore Tim Coleman, who scored all 9 of his points for the game after the break, scored 5 straight for NJIT, cutting the deficit to 12, 55-43, with 9:36 left.  A 12-point deficit with that much time remaining can be overcome sometimes, but not on this night by NJIT.  The Highlanders still trailed by 13 a couple more times, the latest after a bucket by Winfield Willis with 6:03 left. But NJIT did not get any closer to the lead than 15 points in the last five minutes of the contest.  The half-to-half improvement in shooting by NJIT was stark. In the first half, the Highlanders shot 18.5 percent from the field (5-for-27). In the second half, they were 12-for-33, not great, but nearly double the accuracy percentage-wise at 36.4 percent.  As noted earlier, NJIT was outrebounded just 46-40 for the game and in the second half it was even closer, 22-20 for the much taller Red Storm. In addition to Howard’s team-leading 7 boards, NJIT got 5 each from Coleman and Holiday and 4 apiece from Rob Ukawuba andEmmanuel Tselentakis.  NJIT, which has a busy early schedule will play 5 more November games. Next up is NJIT’s home opener Monday at 7 pm against Maine on campus in the Estelle and Zoom Fleisher Athletic Center.  Maine plays its first regular season game under new head coach Bob Walsh on Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis at Butler before coming back East to visit NJIT Monday night.  Last season, under a different coaching staff, the Black Bears lost twice against NJIT, falling at home in Bangor, 88-82, on November 19 and again in Newark on December 4, 81-72.

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