NJIT Cruises Past College of St. Joseph’s (VT)

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Leah Horton scored nine of her game-leading 17 points in the opening 20 minutes, helping NJIT to a 45-16 halftime lead and the Highlanders cruised to a 92-39 women’s basketball victory over visiting College of St. Joseph’s (Vermont) Saturday afternoon at the Fleisher Athletic Center. Horton connected on 7-of-8 field goals attempts, while grabbing four rebounds in 16 minutes of action as the Highlanders snapped a five-game skid and improved to 9-15 on the season. In addition to the sophomore Horton, the Highlanders got a career-high 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting from Camerin Spahn, another sophomore, while Ruta Vetra set a new career mark with 11 points and five rebounds.  Freshman Maria Ruban put together a strong performance, scoring a new personal-mark in points (12 on 6-of-7 from the field) and rebounds (7).  GuardsRonni Grandison and Martina Matejcikova each chipped in 10 points for the winners. College of St. Joseph’s (17-5) received 14 points from Regina Steele, followed by 11 points from Jazz Laracuente.  Steele shared game rebounding honors with NJIT’s 6-foot-5 center Ruban.  NJIT got going early, scoring the opening six points of the game, and extended its lead to double-figures, 19-6, with 11:06 left in the first half, after nine straight points by the home team. Senior Kim Tullis‘ three-point basket triggered a 9-2 spurt, stretching the lead to 18, 28-10, at the 8:05 mark and NJIT closed out the first period on a 17-2 run for a 45-16 halftime advantage.  NJIT’s Spahn led all scorers at the break with 10 points, while Grandison and Horton netted eight points apiece.  Laracuente scored nine first-half points for the Lady Saints.

The Highlanders pushed their lead above 30 for the first time at 47-16, following a fast-break layup by Horton with 44 seconds into te second half and the Highlanders led by at least 40 over the final 13:45.  NJIT’s biggest lead was 56 (92-36) after a jumper for Grandison with 37 seconds left in the game.

NJIT will return to action on February 11 when the Highlanders host Morgan State at 7pm.  Morgan State was the first NCAA Division I women’s basketball opponent for the Highlanders, with the Bears winning close, 63-55, on November 16, 2006.

NJIT Downs Fisher for 10th Win in 11 Games

Damon Lynn scored 32 points, leading four double-figure scorers, all sophomores, for NJIT, which defeated visiting Fisher 96-70 in men’s basketball Saturday afternoon in the Fleisher Athletic Center.  The win for NJIT (15-10 overall) was its 10th in the last 11 games and the fifth victory in a row. The Highlanders previously won five straight from December 30 through January 14 before losing at Dartmouth on January 17. They won two days later at Maine and have not lost since.  Fisher falls to 18-7 with the defeat. Located in Boston, the Falcons are part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, a governing body with more than 300 member institutions that sponsors 23 national championships in 13 sports (NJIT’s forerunner institution, Newark College of Engineering, was NAIA national co-champion in 1960 in men’s soccer and NJIT, departed the NAIA for the NCAA in 1974).  In a statistical oddity, each half of Saturday’s game was exactly 48-35 in favor of the Highlanders.  In addition to Lynn’s game-high 32 points, the Highlanders got a career-high 18 from Rob Ukawuba, 17 points from Tim Coleman, and an NJIT career-high 14 fromOsa Izevbuwa (he played his freshman season ay Williston State in North Dakota).  The Highlanders dominated the rebounding, pulling down 46 to just 21 for the visitors, and Ukawuba matched his career-best 9 rebounds, tying senior teammateDaquan Holiday for game honors. Coleman, who posted a game-high 3 blocked shots, added 8 rebounds for the winners.  Lynn, who came in leading NCAA Division I with 93 3-point baskets, added four more to that total, while shooting 10-for-11 at the foul line. He also finished with 5 assists, second in the game to teammate Winfield Willis‘ 7 assists. Willis also had a game-high 3 steals and scored 9 points while shooting 7-for-7 at the foul line.  Lynn’s 32 points vs. Fisher were the second-highest single-game total of the sophomore’s 54-game college career, exceeded only by his program Division I-record 34 points at North Carolina A&T in January of 2014. He had 11 previous games this season with at least 20 points.  Fisher, which used 16 different players in the game, had one double-figure scorer, senior Chris Green, who scored 18 points. Green, who is from Long Island, played a year of prep basketball at NIA Prep in Newark before heading to college. Another senior, OJ Moore, led the Falcons on the boards with 5 rebounds.

Although the Highlanders held the lead for more than 35 minutes and finished with a 26-point margin of victory, NJIT had to play well to achieve the result it did against Fisher, which has three regular season games plus NAIA postseason play to reach the 20-win level for the third time in the  history of men’s basketball program that began in 2001-02.  Green made a 3-pointer 18 seconds into the first possession of the game and the Falcons later tied the game at 15 apiece on Brandon Robinson’s jump shot with 11:50 left in the first half.  NJIT did not get ahead by more than four until Ukawuba’s three at the 9:01 mark made it 21-17 and the Highlanders took their first double-digit lead, 28-17, on another Ukawuba shot from downtown with 7:59 left in the half.

Free throws by Green at the 5:17 mark trimmed the NJIT lead to 38-29, but Izevbuwa hit back-to-back 3-pointers pushing the bulge to 15 with 4:18 left.  Fisher fought back to within nine points, but Ukawuba made four foul shots in the last 1:27 for a 48-35 lead at the break, paced by 16 points for Ukawuba, 11 for Izevbuwa, and 10 for Coleman. Fisher’s Green led all scorers at halftime with 15 points.  Lynn, who would score 25 of his game-high 32 points in the second half, drained a 3-pointer 13 seconds into the half, sparking an 8-0 run that pushed NJIT into a 56-35 advantage with 16:50 remaining.  The Highlanders led by at least 13 points the rest of the way and they built their biggest margin of the day, 29 points, at 96-67 on a pair of Willis free throws with 1:59 left.

NJIT’s 10-1 mark in the last 11 games extends the program’s best record in any segment of a season since the move to NCAA Division I competition in 2006-07.  The Highlanders went 9-1 in a 10-game segment of the 2001-02 season when the program was in Division II, but never went 10-1 in an 11-game stretch in the Division II era (1997-98 through 2005-06).  The last NJIT team to do better in 11 games was the program’s best Division III team that won 22 in a row and finished the 1994-95 season with a 28-2 record. The 22-game streak ended in the NCAA Division III Tournament in a game for the right to advance to the 1995 Final Four.  NJIT’s recent success this season will be severely tested in the next game on Friday at 7 pm when the Highlanders host two-time defending America East Conference champion UAlbany.  The Great Danes opened their home season with a 65-48 win over the Highlanders back on November 19. That win was an early season bright spot for UAlbany, which eventually dropped to 2-6 to begin the season.  However, the Great Danes beat their local rival Siena on December 13, starting a run that has seen UAlbany win 14 of the last 15. In fact, UAlbany, which won Saturday (69-59 at home vs. UMass Lowell), now has 11 consecutive wins, having suffered its last defeat on December 30 in a non-conference matchup  at Niagara. Coincidentally, that is the same date that began NJIT’s hot stretch that extended to 10-1 with the victory over Fisher. UAlbany is 11-0 in America East Conference games.

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