Bryant 51, N.J. Tech 61
NEWARK, N.J. (AP)—New Jersey Institute of Technology went nearly two years without a win. No wonder junior center Dan Stonkus soaked up every moment Wednesday night.
NJIT ended the longest losing streak in Division I at 51 games, getting a career-high 26 points from Jheryl Wilson in a 61-51 victory over Bryant.
“It was obviously frustrating, but we honestly didn’t think too much of the streak,” said Stonkus, the only member of the program to endure all 51 losses. “We just kept trying to think about the next game and then the next one. It never came down to where we thought we’d never get one. This feels great.”
The Highlanders (1-18) won for the first time since Feb. 19, 2007, when they defeated Longwood 78-74. It was NJIT’s first home win since Feb. 8, 2007, against South Dakota State.
The school is in its third season as a Division I program, and the Highlanders are 6-71 since making the step up from Division II. They went winless last season after posting a 5-24 record in 2006-07.
NJIT officials said the 51-game drought was the longest for a team playing an NCAA Division I schedule. But because NJIT is in its final reclassifying year and will not be a full member of Division I until 2009-10, its skid does not eclipse Sacramento State’s record of 34 consecutive losses from 1997-99.
The longest NCAA losing streak at any level—117 games—is also held by a New Jersey school. Division III Rutgers-Camden did not win a game from Jan. 22, 1992, to Jan. 9, 1997.
The victory over Bryant (3-16) gave first-year coach Jim Engles, a former Columbia assistant, his first win as a head coach.
“It’s a huge sense of relief,” said Engles, who joked that a friend told him he was “the highest-paid coach in the country per win right now.”
“I told the guys that they just had to keep working hard and good things would come. We deserve this. We deserve to win most of our games, because we work so hard every game. The kids never quit. I’m really happy for them,” he said.
Bryant also is in the process of reclassifying into Division I.
After Bryant went up 3-0, the Highlanders scored the next five points to take the lead for good. They led 31-15 at halftime, thanks to Wilson, a sophomore guard who scored 20 points in the first half.
The closest Bryant got was 48-41 with 3:18 left, but freshman guard Isiah Wilkerson, who had 14 points, nailed two free throws to push the lead back to 50-41 and scored his team’s next six points to seal it.
Gary Garris added 13 points and 10 rebounds for NJIT.
Pete Lambert had 21 points to pace Bryant.