Highlanders Use First Half Run to Top UMass Lowell, 78-65

NEWARK, NJ – Junior center Mohamed Bendary matched his career-high with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting and the NJIT Highlanders (5-3) won their fifth straight at home with a 78-65 victory over the UMass Lowell River Hawks (5-3) on Sunday afternoon at the Wellness and Events Center (WEC) in Newark.
The Highlanders have now won three straight meetings against the River Hawks and lead the all-time series, 4-3.
After UMass Lowell's Rinardo Perry hit a layup to give the visitors a 25-23 lead with 3:06 to play in the first half, Anthony Tarke buried a three on the other end to kickstart a 12-3 run over the remainder of the half as NJIT took a 35-28 lead in the locker room.
The run was capped by a layup from freshman guard Zach Cooks with one second left in the opening stanza.
A jumper from Ryan Jones brought UML within nine at the 17:31 mark of the second half, but that was the closest the River Hawks would get the rest of the way.
Following the jumper from Jones, the Highlanders' Diandre Wilson converted a layup to stretch the lead back to double digits and ignite a 17-6 run for NJIT over the next six minutes. Cooks capped the run with a pair of free throws and the hosts led by as many as 20 at 56-36 with 11:19 left to play.
Tarke paced head coach Brian Kennedy's squad with a season-high 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting including a three-of-three performance from beyond the arc, while Bendary added 16 and the pair was joined in double figures by Cooks (10 points) and junior forward Abdul Lewis (10 points).
Bendary had previously scored 16 points on Jan. 24, 2016 vs. North Florida at Fleisher Athletic Center.
NJIT shot 30-of-61 (49.2%) from the floor and 5-of-10 (50.0%) from downtown in the game, while UMass Lowell was 26-of-51 (51.0%) from the field and 4-of-14 (28.6%) from three.
Jones led the way for the River Hawks with 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting, while Perry and freshman guard Obadiah Noel added 13 points apiece for head coach Pat Duqette's squad.
The Highlanders forced 23 UMass Lowell turnovers in the game including 14 steals, led by three thefts from Tarke and two apiece from Cooks, Wilson and sophomore guard Shyquan Gibbs.
After UML hit the first bucket of the game, NJIT would go on to score 12 of the next 14 including a layup from Shawndale Jones that opened up a 12-4 advantage with 13:28 left in the opening stanza.
The Highlanders are back in action on Thursday night when they head to Piscataway to battle in-state rival Rutgers (6-1). Opening tip from Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) is set for 7 p.m.

Write-up courtesy of Joe Fitzhenry

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