Offense goes ice cold for NJIT in regular season home finale loss to Florida Gulf Coast, 55-39
Coming off an impressive 78-69 victory against Stetson on Thursday night, the NJIT Highlanders men’s basketball wrapped up the 2019-20 regular season home schedule on Saturday against Florida Gulf Coast. A very emotional day for senior, Shyquan Gibbs, and graduate, Reilly Walsh, playing their final home game in a Highlanders uniform.
“Very emotional, the Mom’s always get you and when both of them came out there,” said head Coach Brian Kennedy on Gibbs and Walsh. “They are such great kids, both Academic All-Americans and perfect on the court. They came to NJIT all before this was here and when we had Fleisher(Center). They believed in the school, academic side of it and what we were doing here as a program and I can’t thank them enough.”
Coach Brian could not stop praising his players, noting that the “[t]wo [are] great ambassadors for the university, Reilly a 4.0 student and Shyquan a 3.9 student. I told them in the locker room once they make all their money, to make sure they give back some to the school. They are feature leaders out there and as a coach I told them that life is real hard. Everybody wants a storybook ending, last game you score 25 to 30 points. You are guys are winners above and beyond I have coached in a long time.”
Once the game got underway, the Eagles jumped out to a quick 10-4 advantage. However, NJIT answered back with an emphatic 11-0 run as Florida Gulf Coast went without a point for seven minutes. The yo-yo effect continued as the Eagles responded with a 13-0 run as the Highlanders hit a major dry spell without a point for six minutes. Florida Gulf Coast ended up shooting 50 percent from the half, knocking down seven trifecta’s and outscoring NJIT in bench points 11-0. Going into the locker room, Florida Gulf Coast led 35 to 24.
In the second half, the Highlanders went up 37-29 with 17 minutes remaining. Both teams would go on to struggle to shoot the ball efficiently, with the Eagles shooting 22 percent and NJIT shooting 19 percent. With time winding down, it would come down to foul shots as Florida Gulf Coast drained four of them to coast to the 55-39 victory. Zach Cooks led the Highlanders in scoring with 18 points. Caleb Catto tallied a game high 13 points for the Eagles.
“I credit Florida Gulf Coast first because they were defending us,” Coach Kennedy commenting on the loss. “We played a lot of games this year and probably one or two we did not play whatsoever and this is definitely one of them.There seemed to be a lid on both ends of the basket. We were getting good shots at the rim, a couple of open three’s and guys started pressing and got tighter and tighter and harder and harder. The basket seemed to get smaller and smaller.”
“We couldn’t get anything going and sometimes you get the short end of the stick and when teams come up here it’s for one game and Florida Gulf Coast didn’t play Thursday.” “We had a tough long game on Thursday and tough battle.” We tried to save our guys legs yesterday but the ball didn’t fall for us today. Zach finds a way to get the ball in the basket. I thought early on he was letting the game come to him and then he started trying to get baskets on his own which I understand. Just the overall flow of the game we didn’t have today. This might be the lowest output since I have been here.”
The Highlanders(8-19, 5-9 ASUN) finished with a 5-7 record at the Wellness and Events Center. Next up is a two-game road trip with games at North Alabama on Thursday February 27th with tip-off set for 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time followed by a Saturday match-up at Kennesaw State with a 1:00 p.m. start.
Sunil Sunder Raj
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