Men's Basketball Outlasts NJIT, 59-40

Box Score (PDF)

NEWARK, N.J. - The Penn men's basketball players understood the stakes heading into Saturday's matinee game at NJIT.

The Highlanders entered the contest with a 50-game losing streak, by far the longest in the nation. With that has come national recognition -- of the punch-line variety -- but woe be the team that NJIT ends it against.

SeniorBrennan Votel said it best after the game: "as one of my teammates said in the locker room beforehand, 'if we lose this game,it'll make SportsCenter.'"

Well, Penn will not make SportsCenter tonight -- and that is fine by them. After a jittery first half, the Quakers were able toput somedistance between their opponent and ended up with a 59-40 victory in front of 419 fans at the Fleisher Athletic Center.

Votel provided most of Penn's offense in the first half, scoring nearly half of the Quakers' 25 points (12). In the second half, sophomore Harrison Gaines was the difference, scoring all of his 15 points in a critical juncture when Penn pulled away for the win.

Penn is now 4-8 on the season, while NJIT fell to 0-18.

To say that the first half was sloppy would not do it justice. Both teams struggled to even get shots off, as NJIT turned the ball over 13 times and Penn returned the favor 12 times. At one point, the Highlanders went nearly nine full minutes withouta point -- and they were still in the game, as Penn only scored seven points in that stretch (turning a 7-6 deficit into a 13-7 lead). NJIT got within 16-14 on a Gary Garris dunk with 4:46 to go in the stanza, but Kevin Egee immediately drained a three-pointer and then Votel knocked down a layup (his ninth and 10th points of the game) and it was 21-14. That margin held to the half, as the Quakers went into the locker room up 25-18.

The second half started off the same way, as just three points were scored in the first five minutes (all by Penn). It was still a seven-point affair (32-25) when Gaines single-handedly put this game away. He sandwiched a pair of jumpers around a Jheryl Wilson layup, then drained a trey and hit a foul shot on separate possession to make the score 40-27 with ten minutes to go. Cameron Lewis ended Gaines' personal scoring run with an emphatic offensive rebound slam dunk, but then Gaines hit another three-pointer and the score was 45-27. In all Gaines' streak was 11 points (out of 13 for Penn).

NJIT briefly stirred to life, scoring four straight to make the score 45-31, but after two scoreless minutes by both teams Tyler Bernardini knocked down a trey and Gaines hit a layup off a Votel feed. That made the score 50-31 with 3:43 to go, and this one was over.

Bernardini struggled with his shot early in the game, but recovered and finished with his first collegiate double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds). Votel and Gaines led Penn with 15 apiece, while Zack Rosen had nine points and five rebounds. For NJIT, Isaiah Wilkerson had 15 points while Garris had 11.

Penn plays a pair of Philadelphia Big 5 games next week to close out the non-conference portion of the season. The Quakers are at La Salle Wednesday at 7 p.m., then play their annual Palestra affair with Saint Joseph's Saturday at 7 p.m.

Download: Penn12 (@NJIT).pdf