Strong Second Half Not Enough at NJIT
NEWARK, N.J. – The Lafayette men’s basketball team did all it could to dig out of a big first-half hole at NJIT on Tuesday evening, but the deficit was too great to overcome in a 96-80 loss in Newark, N.J.
NJIT’s big first half started from the opening tip as it scored the first 13 points on its way to a 51-30 lead at the break. Lafayette pulled what ballooned to a 30-point edge back down to 14 with less than two minutes to play in the game, but that was as close as the Leopards would come in defeat.
Lafayette (0-2) backed up a 9-for-28 first-half shooting effort with an 18-for-24 mark in the second 20 minutes, making seven of its 10 three-point attempts in the second half. Freshman Alex Petrie knocked down 3-of-5 from beyond the arc to lead the team in scoring with 19 points.
Senior co-captain Matt Klinewski added 15 points on another stellar outside-shooting night, going 3-for-3 to make him 7-for-8 from beyond the arc over his first two games. Klinewski took just four career three-point attempts entering the 2017-18 season.
Freshmen E.J. Stephens and Dylan Hastings were also productive in their second collegiate games, adding 13 and nine points, respectively. Stephens went 6-for-8 from the field, while Hastings hit on 3-of-4 from distance.
NJIT (1-1) was effective throughout the night on the offensive end, making 13 three’s and shooting 38-of-70 from the field overall (54.3%). Diandre Wilson led all scorers with 20 points, while Abdul Lewis chipped in with a double-double, recording 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Stephens’ jumper got the Leopards on the board after NJIT’s 13-point blitz over the first two minutes. A Klinewski triple took the game into its first media timeout with Lafayette trailing, 20-5.
The Maroon and White began to settle in midway through the half as seven straight got the deficit back under 10 at 29-20 with 9:18 to play. But NJIT wouldn’t allow the comeback as a Mohamed Bendary layup through a foul at 4:51 pushed it back to a 16-point game and the Highlanders stretched that edge to 21 at the break, 51-30.
Petrie’s jumper kicked off the second half, but NJIT picked up right where it left off through the first four minutes, extending its advantage to 28 at 65-37. A Paulius Zalys layup off an inbounds play and an answered three from sophomore Kyle Stout moved it to 73-47 through the 12-minute media timeout.
Lafayette showed some life at the midway point as nine straight, finished off by a Stephens steal and jumper, forced a Highlanders timeout with the deficit under 20 at 75-56. The home side responded, though, and kept the Leopards at that length through the final timeout, up by a 92-70 score with 4:07 to play.
There was no quit in the Maroon and White over the final minutes as a Hastings three with 1:42 left capped off a 10-2 run to pull within 14 at 94-80. Time ran out on the comeback in the end, though, as the final buzzer sounded on the 96-80 defeat.
Lafayette returns to action on Friday, making the short trip to the PPL Center in Allentown, Pa. to take on No. 5 Villanova at 8 p.m. That game can be seen on Fox Sports 2.