Pirates Fast Start and Key Swings Lead to CIT Semifinal Berth
Shyquan Gibbs of Hillside puts up a jumper for NJIT in the first half against Hampton in the 2019 CIT Quarterfinals on Thursday night in Newark. Hampton defeated the Highlanders 82-70 to advance to the CIT Semifinals on April 2nd.
NEWARK, NJ—Coming into its 2019 CIT Quarterfinal match-up versus Hampton, NJIT, which was making its third appearance all time in the CIT, and first in three years, had a record of 7-2 including an undefeated 7-0 at home in the post-season college hoops tourney. The only losses suffered by the Highlanders were in the 2015 and 2016 CIT semifinals to Northern Arizona and Columbia.
NJIT, which was one of three top seeds that received 2nd Round CIT byes, and won its first round match-up in the 2019 CIT over Quinnipiac (92-81), had a chance to punch its ticket to the CIT Semifinals for the 3rd time in 5 years. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Hampton, which won its first two round games over St. Francis College of Brooklyn (81-72) and Charleston Southern University (73-67), scored 12 of the first 16 points of the game, and built up a 22 point lead early in the second half before winning 82-70 over the Highlanders.
The Hampton Pirates overall size and length made things more difficult for NJIT in this contest. In the victory over Quinnipiac in the CIT opening round on March 18th, the Highlanders shot a torrid 51 percent overall from the floor (30-59) including 12 of 26 from three point land for 46 percent. On Thursday night versus Hampton, NJIT only managed to connect on 27 of 76 shots overall for just under 36 percent including only 5 of 23 from beyond the arc for 22 percent.
Hampton took advantage of all of this by jumping out to a 12-4 lead, and then extending it to a 31-12 advantage on a three pointer by Jermaine Marrow at the 6:26 mark of the first half. The Highlanders then embarked on a 14-6 spurt sparked by a Zach Cooks three and capped by a three from the right wing by Diego Willis that narrowed the deficit to 37-26 with 1:08 to go in the opening half.
NJIT also had a couple chances to get baskets in the final minute of the opening half including one to close within single digits, but couldn’t score and Hampton made it a four point swing in both cases with buckets at the other end for a 41-26 lead at the intermission. The Pirates built off that late first half momentum by scoring the first 7 points of the second half for an 11-0 run to take its largest lead of the game at 48-26 before Mohammed Bendary (6 points) got NJIT on the board with a hook shot at the 16:01 mark.
Bendary’s score began a Highlander 32-18 surge over the next 12:02 that included 13 of Zach Cooks team high 22 points as well as a three point play and a three pointer from Diandre Wilson (12 points) that got NJIT within single digits at 66-58 with just under four minutes to play. Again, NJIT had opportunities to get even closer, but was unable to score while Hampton was able to respond with buckets at the other end that kept the Highlanders out of reach.
Despite Cooks strong effort during the Highlander rally, the Georgia native had a much more difficult time getting into a good scoring rhythm in this contest. In his game high 34 point performance in the victory over Quinnipiac, Cooks clicked on 12 of 20 shots overall from the floor including 4 of 7 from three while also making 6 of 8 from the charity stripe. Against Hampton, Cooks was limited to 9 of 28 shooting overall including just 2 of 8 from three, and made his only two free throw attempts in the game with 11:01 remaining.
Conversely, Hampton was much more successful ultimately thanks to its defense setting up transition opportunities and easy baskets, especially in the first half. The Pirates were more efficient in the first half as they shot 18 of 36 overall from the floor as supposed to just 14 of 31 over the final 20 minutes of the contest. Although Hampton was just 3 of 17 from long distance, it made up for it with a 15 of 19 showing at the foul line including 12 of 15 in the second half. The Pirates size also proved to be key on the boards and inside.
Hampton outscored NJIT by a margin of 44-42 in the paint including a 13-9 edge in second half points. The Pirates, which outrebounded the Highlanders 52-34 on the boards, also enjoyed a 14-6 advantage in second chance points. All of this was created by Hampton’s overall size and length advantage, which bolstered its defense against NJIT’s three point shooting and drives to the basket. The Pirates only had 6 of its 7 players that got into the game score, but five of those players scored in double figures led by Jermaine Marrow, who equaled Cooks for game high honors with 22 points on 9 of 21 shooting.
Greg Heckstall chipped in with 19 points on 6 of 11 shooting including 2 of 4 from three point range. Karin Fisher added 16 points on 6 of 12 shooting and 4 of 4 from the line. Trevond Barnes contributed with 13 points on 6 of 9 shooting while Akim Mitchell went 4 of 9 and made both his free throws to end up with 10 points on the night. Hillside native, Shyquan Gibbs, who scored 15 points in NJIT’s win over Quinnipiac, was saddled with foul trouble and only had 9 points before fouling out with 30 seconds to play.
The Highlanders had 10 different players get into the game, and all of them scored as Kjell De Graaf (5 points), Diakite Souleymane (4 points), San Antonio Brinson (3 points), Diego Willis (3 points), and Shawndale Jones (2 points) rounded out NJIT’s scoring. Ricquall Smoot rounded out Hampton’s scoring with 2 points while Lysander Bracey (a rebound and an assist) also saw action, but did not score for the Pirates. Hampton also enjoyed a 12-9 edge in assists and a 4-3 edge in blocked shots. NJIT’s comeback bid was spurred by a 9-4 edge in steals, and forcing 14 turnovers while only committing 7.
With the victory, Hampton improves to 18-16 overall on the season, and advances to the 2019 CIT Semifinals on April 2nd at Marshall University. NJIT, which set a school record for most Division 1 wins in a season with 22, finished the season at 22-13.
DID YOU KNOW? Hampton started the season with 8 losses in its first 13 games capped by an overtime loss at St. Peter’s on December 29th in Jersey City (83-80). Since that time, the Pirates have won 13 of their last 21 games. NJIT played a game earlier in the season against St. Francis College of Brooklyn, a team Hampton defeated in the opening round of the CIT (81-72). The Highlanders played St. Francis-Brooklyn back on December 8th at the WEC (Wellness and Events Center) in Newark, and rolled to an 82-60 victory. NJIT is now 7-3 in its three appearances in the CIT including a 7-1 record at home. GMC Hoops has seen NJIT play 6 times in its 3 appearances in the CIT, and the Highlanders are 5-1 in those games.