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By CHRISTOPHER JAMES
The men’s basketball team won its third game in a row, beating New Jersey Institute of Technology 66-57 at Sharp Gym, giving the team its first Great West Conference win of the season.
The Huskies controlled the game at the end of the first half, with a 10-0 run before the half and refused to give up the lead for the entirety of the second half. Senior forward Art Bernardi recorded his third double-double in four games and led the team with 37 minutes played, 22 points and 12 rebounds. Bernardi went 7-of-17 from the field, including 2-of-5 from three-point range and 6-of-8 from the free throw line.
As a team, the Huskies have worked hard and built a trust, which helped them win against conference rival NJIT.
“I was feeling it when I was wide open,” Bernardi said. “As a team we have a lot of trust in each other and our hard work has paid off.”
Freshman guard Caleb Crayton was second on the team with 12 points, shooting 4-of-8 from the field, including 2-of-3 from three-point range and recorded two rebounds and three takeaways. The University had 13 turnovers compared to NJIT’s 20, which led to a 21-10 edge for points off of turnovers.
It was a slow start for both teams as the Huskies led early 10-6 before the conference-leading Highlanders went on an eight point run on back-to-back threes from senior guards Chris Flores and Ryan Woods. Flores led NJIT with 17 points and recorded seven rebounds and six steals. Woods had 10 points and a team leading three assists.
The Huskies played aggressive defense, holding the Highlanders to just 35 percent from the field and 18 percent from the three-point line.
Crayton said the game plan for the University was to play aggressive defense and cohesive basketball.
“We have just been staying together as a family and fighting,” Crayton said. “We knew we had to punch them in the mouth and play aggressive defense.”
The Huskies were able to shoot 41 percent from the field, but shot only 25 percent from behind the three-point line.
To start the second half, Bernardi scored a layup to increase the Huskies’ scoring run from the first half to 12-0, giving them a five-point lead. The Highlanders responded when sophomore forward Daquan Holiday made a tip-in to break an NJIT drought that lasted 6:05 going back to the first half.
After a pair of successful free throws by freshman guard James Harper, the Huskies increased the lead to eight with 5:16 left on the clock. NJIT’s freshman guard Ky Howard converted a three-point play to cut the lead to six with 20 seconds left.
The Huskies answered with two successful free throws made by sophomore guard Marcel Smith, followed by one out of two free throws made by Bernardi. Freshman forward Dauson Womack got the offensive rebound from the missed free throw and did a one handed slam dunk, which electrified the stadium to finish the game.
Men’s basketball head coach Ron Cottrell said that the team is young and finally coming together, which is one reason for the three game winning streak.
“We started with a lot of freshman and we knew we were going to take some losses,” Cottrell said. “Our guys are growing up and starting to play well together and are on the right track.”