Diandre Wilson Guides NJIT to 3-0 Start with Game-High 20 Points

Diandre Wilson Guides NJIT to 3-0 Start with Game-High 20 Points

GAME HIGHLIGHTS (VIDEO)

NEWARK, N.J. - Senior Diandre Wilson scored a game-high 20 points to lead NJIT past Brown University, 63-60, at the Wellness and Events Center (WEC) on Sunday. In fact, the Fort Lauderdale native made the Highlanders' final four goals, including the game-winner on a drive through the lane with 26 seconds remaining.

With the win NJIT has started a season 3-0 for the first time in 13 seasons as a Division-I program and for the first time since a 4-0 start in 1996-97 -- the program's final campaign competing at the Division-III level (D-II from 1998-05). Brown falls to 0-2 despite being tied within the final 30 seconds in each of its first two road games this season.

"We've played three game in five days, and I think it showed a little bit in the second half. We got a little worn down," said third-year head coach Brian Kennedy. "Hats off to the guys. They hung in there and found a way to win. That's what it's all about: is fighting through adversity and finding a way to win. We're very excited with the win."
 
Even after Wilson dropped what proved to be the game-winning bucket, the Highlanders required some additional assistance. That came in the form a gigantic defensive play from sophomore San Antonio Brinson, who rejected a layup attempt by senior Obi Okolie with 11 seconds remaining to all but seal the win.

After a free-throw by Shawndale Jones stretched the lead to three, the Bears had a final chance to tie the game -- but a desperation three-point shot by Okolie was off the mark at the buzzer.

Wilson had previously tied the game, 60-60, with a short jumper to complete a drive with 1:10 to go.
 
The transfer from Mott Community College (MI), who posted a game-high 21 points in the win Friday at Binghamton, finished 7-for-11 from the floor and 3-for-6 from beyond the arc. In three games this season, he has led the team in scoring twice while laying claim for two game-winning baskets. He also put the Highlanders ahead for good on a four-point play with 1:32 left in overtime in the season-opener against Colgate on Nov 6.

Not bad for a guy questionable to start the year on time after undergoing knee surgery in the preseason.

"Diandre is one of those kids who just has a knack for scoring. He just finds ways to score," Kennedy said. "Sometimes, as a coach, it drives you a little crazy because his game is a little unorthodox. But I stick with him because I believe in him, I love him; and because he comes through."

Senior Mohamed Bendary scored 10 points to become the only other NJIT player to reach double-figures. Brinson and sophomore Zach Cooksled the Highlanders with six rebounds apiece., while junior Shyquan Gibbs recorded a game-high four steals and shared game-high honors with three assists.

Sophomore Tamenang Choh netted 17 points and was the only Brown player to score in double-digits. Junor Joshua Howard grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.

For the second game in a row, the Highlanders' defensive effort proved to be a key factor in the victory. After holding Binghamton to 31.6-percent shooting in the 74-57 win on Friday, NJIT held Brown to 28.0-percent (7-for-25) shooting in the first half and just 37.5-percent (21-for-56) for the game.
 
How significant was that? The Bears scored 81 points in their opener on Friday and were the Ivy League's highest-scoring team a season ago in averaging 77.0 points per game. Further, Brown was just one of four teams in the nation to return its five starters and top-five leading scorers.

One player was unanimous Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Desmond Cambridge -- who tied for third in the Ivy in scoring last season at 17.3 ppg. NJIT held the talented sophomore to nine points on 2-for-10 shooting. Another was junior Brandon Anderson, who tied Cambridge for third in the Ivy at 17.3 ppg. The Highlanders stifled him to the tune of seven points on 3-for-11 shooting.

The Highlanders led for a majority of the contest, reaching an apex at 41-30 after a layup by Bendary with 17:21 to go in the game. But the Bears would steadily eat away at the NJIT lead.

Okolie threw down a dunk with 6:16 remaining that pulled Brown to within a point – the closest it had pulled since the 6:13 mark of the first half.
 
Thirty-six seconds later, Okolie hit a three-pointer that gave Brown a 54-52 lead.
 
From there on out, the game featured three ties and four lead changes before ultimately being decided on the Wilson layup.
 
No Highlanders player other than Wilson hit a field goal after a Cooks layup with 8:11 remaining. Wilson recorded 10 of NJIT's final 11 points – and 10 straight until Jones' free-throw with eight seconds remaining.
 
NJIT finished shooting 50.0-percent (25-for-50) for the game and held a slight rebounding edge at 35-34. However, Brown won the turnover battle, 17-14, which led to a 23-6 advantage on points off turnovers.
 
The Highlanders continue to display their depth, dominating the bench scoring, 37-14. For the season, NJIT holds a 97-46 scoring advantage from reserves.
 
NJIT played its third game without ASUN preseason All-Conference selection Abdul Lewis. The team also lost senior co-captain Reilly Walsh to an ankle injury at the 17:24 mark of the first half. He did not return.
 
The Highlanders will look to make it 4-0 when they host Kean University (Division-III) at the WEC. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

Last season, the Highlanders defeated Kean, 116-63 on Nov. 22, 2017, in Newark. It marked the first meeting between programs since both competed at the DIvision-III level and since a 120-100 Kean home win on Jan. 15, 1990.

NJIT leads the all-time series, 28-24 -- which includes meetings when Kean was known as Newark Normal, Newark Teachers and Newark State. 

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