BANGOR, Maine — The New Jersey Institute of Technology scored the final 12 points of the first half, including nine by freshman guard Damon Lynn, to build a 42-29 intermission lead and the Highlanders withstood a furious second-half rally to post an 88-82 men’s basketball victory over the University of Maine at the Cross Insurance Center on Tuesday night.
New Jersey Tech improved to 3-2 with its third straight win while the Black Bears fell to 1-3.
It was the Maine men’s debut at the Cross Insurance Center.
Lynn had 14 of his team-high 24 points in the first half on 4-for-7 shooting from the floor, including 3-for-5 from beyond the 3-point arc.
New Jersey Tech put five players in double figures as Nigel Sydnor had 13 points; Winfield Willis and Terrence Smith contributed 12 apiece and Ky Howard had 11. Smith had 10 rebounds to go with his 12 points and Howard had a team-high six assists.
“This is the most unselfish team I’ve ever played on. We shared the ball well tonight,” said Sydnor.
The Highlanders connected on 17 of their 19 free throw attempts in the second half to prevent the Bears from closing any closer than six.
Sophomore guard Dimitry Akanda-Coronel had a game-high 29 points for the Black Bears including 26 in the second half. Zarko Valjarevic had 14 points and Shaun Lawton tossed in 12 more. Lawton also had a game-high eight assists while Ethan Mackey and Garet Beal contributed 11 and nine rebounds, respectively. Beal also had eight points.
The Highlanders built a 25-12 lead to take a lead it would never relinquish.
The Black Bears used a 17-5 run to pull within one with three minutes left in the half on a Lawton steal and dunk. That was as close as they were to come.
Sydnor took a pass from Emmanuel Tselentakis and nailed a 3-pointer from the right side; Lynn sank three free throws and then closed out the half by sinking a pair of threes from the left side, sandwiching them around a Maine turnover.
“That run at the end of the half was big for us,” said New Jersey Tech coach Jim Engles. “We did the same thing at New Hampshire. The game was tied and we went on a run at the end of the half to take a 14-point lead into the intermission.”
Lynn said he wasn’t trying to take the game over in the latter stages of the half but “Coach told me if I have an open shot take it. I’m tough. Coach has made me tough.”
The Highlanders converted 7 of 11 3-point attempts in the first half led by Lynn’s 3-for-5 shooting.
New Jersey Tech shot 45.5 percent in the first half compared to Maine’s 33 percent..
Lynn hit a runner to make it 50-35 early in the second half before Maine used a 7-2 run to close the gap to 52-41.
But Lynn hit another three and Sydnor’s reverse layup extended the lead to 57-42 with 10 minutes left.
The Highlanders expanded the lead to 61-44 with eight minutes remaining but the pesky Black Bears battled back with a 13-2 flurry to pull within six with 4:40 remaining.
Willis’ left-handed runner from the paint and Sydnor’s baseline runner stemmed the rally.
Maine cut the lead to seven but the Highlanders hit their free throws down the stretch to sew up the win.
“We can score. We got a lot of open looks. But we have to be more consistent defensively,” said Maine coach Ted Woodward, whose team was without starting guard Xavier Pollard (lower body injury).
Maine hit nine threes in the second half with Akanda-Coronel hitting four and Valjarevic accounting for three.
“I stepped up and took the shots I take in practice in the second half,” said Akanda-Coronel. “In the first half, I passed the ball because I wanted to get everyone involved.”
New Jersey Tech shot 48.3 percent from the floor and 57.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc while Maine was at 42.6 percent and 38.2 percent, respectively. New Jersey Tech had a 39-37 edge in rebounds.
New Jersey Tech was 22-for-28 from the free throw line compared to Maine’s 11-for-20.