FORT MYERS, Fla. - The fifth-seeded NJIT Highlanders won their first-ever ASUN Conference Men's Basketball Championship game with an 83-78 final behind 26 points from Diandre Wilson.
Wilson's 26 points led all players for NJIT, followed closely by teammate Zach Cooks who totaled 25 on his 20th birthday. Abdul Lewis was the only other Highlanders player to get into double figures, scoring 18 of his own with 12 coming in the second half. For FGCU, Dinero Mercurius topped all scorers in the contest with 27 points, notching 16 of them in the final 20 minutes of play. As a team, NJIT found its success from the foul line, starting out 15-15 from the charity stripe before finishing 25-32. Diandre Wilson knocked down clutch free throws in the final minute of the game, holding off an FGCU comeback bid. Each team shot over 49% in the game with the Highlanders pacing the game at 55% from the field. The Highlanders also made 10 three-pointers, three above their season average.
The first half started out with each team getting on the board early, but NJIT quickly pulled away to a double-digit lead that FGCU could not counter as they fell scoreless for a big chunk of play. The Highlanders built a 20-point lead at 33-13 in the first half before the Eagles could respond, cutting into the lead with big baskets. Eventually, the Eagles found themselves down by just single digits with the first half winding down, and cut the lead to 38-33 at the break behind a massive dunk from Troy Baxter Jr. and a three-pointer at the horn from Schadrac Casimir.
FGCU opened the scoring in the second half, looking to continue their momentum from the opening frame. But NJIT once again countered with a big run, pulling ahead by double digits thanks to the play of Lewis and Wilson who totaled 30 points in the final 20 minutes. The Highlanders cruised through most of the second half with that double-digit lead before FGCU mustered more late-half heroics to make the game interesting. FGCU began cutting the lead down with just under a minute to go, erasing an 11-point deficit into a three-point game with just 10 seconds to go. Wilson was able to make a pair of free throws with eight seconds to go to bring the margin back to five before FGCU could not get another basket to fall on its next possession, ending the game.
NJIT moves on to the ASUN Conference Championship Semifinals for the first time in program history in its fourth year in the league. NJIT will now get its shot at top seed Lipscomb on Thursday night in Nashville, with tip off set for 7 PM CT.
#4 FGCU vs. #5 NJIT - ASUN Quarterfinals Notes
-FGCU finishes the 2018-19 season with an overall record of 14-18
-NJIT improves to 21-11 on the year with its second victory vs. FGCU this season
-Diandre Wilson and Zach Cooks combined for 51 points on the night while making four three-pointers each
-Dinero Mercurius led all scorers with 27 points behind 10-15 from the floor and 5-10 from beyond the arc
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