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NJIT’s Second-Half Comeback Falls Short at Florida Gulf Coast

FORT MYERS, FL. – The NJIT Highlanders (18-8, 6-5 ASUN) showed great fight, but fell at Alico Arena to Florida Gulf Coast (11-16, 6-6), 57-55. Senior Abdul Lewis led all scorers with 16 points and added nine rebounds. Shyquan Gibbs followed with 13 points. NJIT trailed by eight at halftime and battled to regain the lead late in the second half, but despite preventing the Eagles any made field goals in the last 2:30 of the game, late FGCU free throws downed NJIT. Florida Gulf Coast came out of the gates quickly, draining 3-5 three pointers in the opening four minutes of a back-and-forth first half. NJIT kicked their offense into high gear out of the first media timeout, going on a 12-2 run featuring four different scorers over the course of the next 4:16. Lewis provided six of the points during the run while Gibbs and Diandre Wilson contributed three each. The Eagles came back with a run of their own while the Highlanders failed to score for more than three minutes. Mohamed Bendary broke the scoring drought with less than two minutes to go and Lewis' incredible put-back effort rounded out the first-half scoring with NJIT trailing by eight at the half, 33-25. NJIT came out of the gates fast in the second half. Gibbs drained a three pointer on the opening possession, followed by a Lewis layup and a steal by Cooks, which led to a layup by Wilson to pull the game within five at the first media timeout. The momentum really began swinging towards the Highlanders when Lewis scored four points in 30 seconds, including a thunderous dunk in transition, which was setup by a Wilson steal. At the 12-minute mark, a three pointer by Gibbs shrank the lead to one point. In the opening 10 minutes of the second half, both teams were shooting above 50%. Finally, the Highlanders gained their first lead of the half at the 7:33 mark, thanks to six-consecutive points from Zach Cooks. NJIT ramped up their defense, holding the Eagles scoreless from the field for more than three minutes heading into the final media timeout. At the 2:53 mark, a three pointer from Diego Willis gave NJIT its final lead of the game. It would be their last made field goal. A FGCU layup and free throw gave the Eagles the lead with 2:31 left to play. The Highlanders' final two possessions of the game were well defended, resulting in two missed shots and NJIT suffered its fifth loss in conference play. The NJIT Highlanders look to return to winning ways at home on Saturday, February 16, when they host North Florida at 4 p.m. ET.

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