Photo by Samantha Seneres

NJIT snaps losing skid in win over FDU

The NJIT Highlanders Women's Basketball team snapped their two-game losing skid in a 61-46 win over the FDU Knights at the Stratis Arena in Hackensack, New Jersey.

"We really needed that after dropping two last week. The Hofstra one was a really tough one and we should have had that game," NJIT head coach Mike Lane explained. "We had the ball with under 30 seconds, and I didn't think there was any way we can lose. You're taking that last shot, so it wasn't a great feeling."

"I thought we had two really good days of practice. FDU is a pesky team. I didn't think there was an athletic advantage. Alejandra (Zuniga) was on fire."

NJIT (5-3) had dropped their last two games, including a 67-65 defeat at Hofstra. Meanwhile, FDU notched the first win of the 2023-24 season in a 64-59 victory over Rider.

With the score at 5-5 and less than seven minutes left in the first quarter, the Highlanders erupted for a 9-2 spurt. FDU (1-6) countered that with an 8-2 run as the Knights closed to within 16-15 at the end of the first period.

The Highlanders managed to stretch the margin to 25-15 with six and a half minutes remaining in the second quarter. NJIT point guard Alejandra Zuniga, the primary source of offense, tallied 11 points.

"We really wanted to push the pace today, and Alejandra is somebody that wants to do that. We got some nice transition pushes up the floor, which was really great," Lane described.

FDU answered with a 7-0 surge to close to within 25-22 with three and a half minutes left in the half. Knights' senior forward/center Teneisia Brown notched her eighth point on a jumper in the paint during the run. The Highlanders bumped the margin back up to 29-22 at the one-minute mark, but Knights guard Abby Conklin buried a trifecta with one second to go on the clock that closed the gap.

"I was disappointed because I felt we dominated in the first half but walked into halftime 29-25," Lane noted. "We're up seven, and we mess up, and they get a three on the other end and a four-point game. That's a bit of what happened at Hofstra with closing out quarters and halves. We're still working on that."

NJIT shot the ball effectively from the perimeter while controlling points in the paint at 16-10. On the flip side, FDU had the edge in rebounds at 18-14 and 9-7 in points off turnovers.

Zuniga caught fire once the third quarter got underway, scoring eight points that widened the Highlanders' advantage to 41-27 with five minutes left. NJIT displayed aggressiveness in driving to the basket for layups, leading to fouls and trips to the free-throw line. The Highlanders in the zone from the charity stripe line buried 9 for nine as they led 51-37 at the end of the quarter.

"I thought that third quarter was very surgical for us. We looked the way we were last year and had our motion offense going and sharing the ball," Lane stated. "We were attacking, getting layups and pull-up threes."

A low-scoring fourth quarter ensued, with both teams combining to score 19 points, but NJIT coasted to a 61-46 victory. Zuniga finished with a game-high 21 points, while Kenna Squier added 15 points and a team-high nine steals. For FDU, Brown dropped 17 points, while Staci Williams contributed 11 points.

"One of maybe my favorite Kenna Squier all-time games. She has played many games in the NJIT uniform," Lane cited. "Her presence on the court is not just the steals, rebounds, hitting threes, and driving but deflections, and that doesn't get counted. I thought she was very active and used her length. We needed that from her."

NJIT returns to action on Sunday as they will face the University of Miami (6-0) at the Watsco Center in Coral Gables, Florida, with tip-off set for noon. FDU hosts American (1-5) at the Stratis Arena on Saturday.

"Miami has been putting up points on the board and they are very deep and very interchangeable with their roster," Lane said. "They have two or three really big kids and can shoot threes, drive, pull up and have two very good point guards and a top-20 team for a reason."

"I want to get to halftime where we're in the game, so it's hard to put those expectations on us, but it will be fun to get some sunshine and warmth. A tough week last week during the holidays, but this will be a great experience playing a power five team and come back and hunker down for December."

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