Post Game Report – NJIT 88 Maine 82
The Black Bears dropped their home opener in the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, 88-82 to the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders, in what turned out to be a hard fought battle to the end. Despite a 13 point deficit at halftime, the Blackbears cut it to just 6 points at times, behind the scoring outburst of Dimitry Akanda-Coronel, who lit up the stat sheet in the second half. Unfortunately, the Highlanders would always answer back with a big run of their own, coming mainly from the shooting prowess of Damon Lynn, who shot 57% from behind the arc and only missed 1 free throw in the late minutes.
In fact, free throws may have been what won it for the Highlanders; in the second half, NJIT only missed 2 free throw shots, giving them almost 90% FT percentage, and sinking almost every single shot in the bonus in the last few minutes of the game when Maine was attempting to control the clock with quick fouls. Maine shot a less than impressive 55% FT shooting for the entire game, making only 50% in the second half, when it really mattered. A few made free throws in those final minutes could’ve completed the comeback for UMaine when combined with the deadeye shooting of Dimitry Akanda-Coronel, Zarko Valjarevic, and Troy Reid-Knight in the final few minutes of the game, as they each sunk at least one 3-pointer to aide in the comeback. Another issue for the Black Bears was shooting; towards the beginning of the game and throughout most of the game, Maine couldn’t buy a bucket. They had their sharpshooters in their places, taking beautiful wide open looks, but the shots just weren’t dropping, some rimming out and some were just results of bad releases. But for the most part, Maine was taking good shots.
Normally this would be where we at WMEB Sports would post videos of the press conferences from both teams, but due to the poor audio quality of the conference room, the audio in our videos was barely audible. Instead, this will be a brief and general synopsis of the post-game press conference. (stand-alone audio recordings will be used in the future)
NJIT head coach Jim Engles started off the press conference by being thankful for the road win, their 3rd road game in 6 days; he thought his team was fortunate to close out their road trip strong against Maine, whose talent he praised through scouting prior to the game. Although NJIT dominated in the first half, Engles pointed out that his team still has a lot to work on, presumably referencing Maine’s many runs in the 2nd half. Leading scorer Damon Lynn (24 points, 57% 3pnt shooting) credited his performance to his team getting him the ball in good spots. On the same note, Nigel Sydnor (13 points, 57% FGP, 4-5 FT) credits their first half success to unselfish play, getting a lot of ball movement, and finding the open man. “This is one of the most unselfish teams I’ve ever played on.” Sydnor later commented. The press conference ended with Coach Engles, Lynn, and Sydnor, complimenting the new arena, reflecting on their experience playing in Cross Insurance Center. Coach Engles jokingly added “I’m gonna take some pictures to bring back and show our [athletic director].”
The Maine press conference included coach Ted Woodward, freshman Garet Beal, and sophomore Dimitry Akanda-Coronel. Woodward started off the press conference by giving a lot of credit to NJIT and their excellent play. Woodward also commented that he felt his defense needed to step it up, which “we saw pockets of in the second half”, referencing the many defensive stops that lead to many almost-comeback runs made by the Black Bears. NJIT put up a huge run at the end of the first half, leading by 13 starting the second. “We had to play catch up the rest of the way,” Woodward reflected, “we went to our bench a lot, and we had to go to.” Dimitry Akanda-Coronel (29 points, 4-8 FT, 2 steals) commented on his second half play: “In the first half I was just trying to pass the ball, set something up. Second half, I knew I had to step up. I started taking the shots I had been taking in practice.” Coronel later commented “I have to step up and be a leader. Our other captain [Xavier Pollard] is out injured; I need to start getting more vocal on the court, when I get more vocal, everyone else starts to get more vocal.” Freshman Garet Beal (8 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals) commented on the rebounding battle against a shorter team. “It was all effort. We had a lot of guys battling down low. Even though we had the size advantage, it was all about effort.”, referencing the even rebounding between the teams (Maine finished with 37 rebounds, NJIT 39).
At the end of Maine’s press conference, Woodward talked about how impressed he is, even in the loss, with his team this year, calling his team a “special group of guys… they have the character to keep pushing.”, referencing Maine’s many potential comeback runs in the final 8 minutes of play, cutting the lead from 15 points to 6 many times. Woodward also commented “I like this group of guys, they work hard.”
Maine falls to 1-3 on the year, where NJIT improves to a 3-2 record. Maine’s next home game will be Monday, the 25th of November, against the Quinnipiac Bobcats at 7pm at the Cross Insurance Center in downtown Bangor, Maine.