ST. MARY's CITY, Md. (NJCUGothicKnights.com) | The New Jersey City University men's basketball team led for more than 36 minutes and committed only seven turnovers while withstanding a second-half challenge from Spalding University as the Gothic Knights advanced to the championship game of the Dan Greene Memorial Invitational with a 59-53 triumph on November 19 at St. Mary's College of Maryland's O'Brien Arc Arena. Trailing by three in the second half, NJCU amassed a 15-2 run to pull away.
NJCU improved to 2-0 and seized a 14-4 margin in steals in the game while producing a 15-4 advantage in points off turnovers. The Golden Eagles (0-1), located in Louisville, Kentucky, and members of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC), committed 24 turnovers in their season opener.
The Gothic Knights will face Baldwin Wallace University in the tournament title game after the Yellow Jackets upended host St. Mary's, 75-72.
Senior shooting guard Jalen Harris (Brandywine, Md./Gwynn Park (Md.)) scored a game-high 19 points, shooting 8-of-12 from inside the three-point arc. Freshman power forward Sam Toney(Somerdale, N.J./Williamstown) produced his first career double-digit scoring and rebounding performances with 12 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and two steals in 25 minutes. He knocked down 4-of-9 three-point tries. Also for NJCU, senior guard Andrew Tomlin (Newark, N.J./Central) scored 10 points off the bench.
NJCU was outshot, 42.6 percent (20-47) to 31.0 percent (22-71) but hit five more three pointers than Spalding. NJCU fired 32 threes, hitting six of them (.188) but the opponents were just 1-of-14 from deep (.071).
Nick Trisko, a 6-foot-8 senior center, had a game-high 16 rebounds—all defensively—as the Eagles had a +10 rebounding margin in defeat. He added 10 points (5-9 FG) and two blocks. James Turner added a double-double of 14 rebounds and 10 points but committed eight turnovers. Dominique Ellis (nine points) and Rylan Rowe (eight points) also contributed as those four players accounted for 37 points.
HOW IT HAPPENED
NJCU, which led for 36:21 of play, led 32-20 at halftime, forcing the Eagles into 13 giveaways. The Knights surged out to a 12-2 lead in the first six minutes as Toney knocked down a pair of threes. A three-point play by Tomlin with 8:44 to go in the half maintained an 11-point advantage (20-9) and the Knights led by as many as 14 points (27-13) late in the opening stanza.
Spalding would answer, scoring 14 of the first 16 second half points to tie it at 34-34 when James Abrams hit a pair of foul shots with 11:21 remaining. Five different players scored for Spalding during the streak. After a Toney triple momentarily silenced the run, Spalding scored six more, including back-to-back baskets by Ellis to give the Kentucky school a 40-37 lead with 8:53 remaining at the end of a 20-5 streak.
But the Knights answered with an 8-0 run of their own. Junior small forward Kevin Brown(Elizabeth, N.J./Elizabeth) tied it before a steal by sophomore Nelson Goodwater III(Englewood, N.J./Dwight Morrow) led to a fast break and a three-point play that put NJCU back on top for good. A Harris offensive carom and putback made it 45-40 with 6:42 left. After a pair of free throws for Spalding, Tomlin hit a three and Harris scored in transition to push the lead to 50-42 before sophomore center Yuri Brutus (Roselle Park, N.J./Roselle Park)extended the lead to 10, 52-42, with 5:05 to play, to cap a decisive 15-2 outburst over a span of 4:22. NJCU's defense didn't allow Spalding to draw closer than five in the final five minutes.
Reigning NJAC Coach of the Year Marc Brown on the tournament win: "We fought until the very end. We really played an excellent first half and a poor second half. I love playing in tournaments like this because it prepares us for conference play. Our guys fought hard in the second half and did not give up."
- Series: First meeting.
- Jalen Harris scored in double figures for the 26th time in 30 career games as a Gothic Knight.
In the tournament's title game, two unbeaten teams square off for the first time in their histories when NJCU faces Baldwin Wallace (2-0), members of the Ohio Athletic Conference, at 3 p.m.