NEWARK, Del. - - The combination of a slow start and a poor shooting night did not bid well for the Wilmington University men's basketball team, as they suffered an 81-76 loss to NYIT in the 2017-18 season opener at the WU Athletics Complex on Friday night.
The Wildcats (0-1) did not get on the scoreboard until 3:23 into the contest, and didn't hit a shot until 4:19 into the game, getting off to a slow start against the Bears (1-0). But the Wildcats' defense kept them around until the offense got comfortable.
Jermaine Head hit a three-pointer to bring the Wildcats to within 8-6 with 14:20 left in the half before Zahir Robinson put the home team ahead with another three pointer, 9-8, with 13:14 showing on the clock.
Tied at 13, the Wildcats went on an 8-0 run, getting three-pointers from Head and Ed Henderson II to take their largest lead of the game, 21-13, with 9:32 to remaining in the first half.
Still up eight points at 26-18, the Wildcats offense would go cold. The Bears battled back into the game with an 11-0 run, taking a 29-26 lead with 4:44 to play in the half. The run continued for the Bears, as it reached a 24-3 sprint towards the end of the half, taking a 42-29 lead with 1:47 showing on the clock. Nick Richards and Elijah Agwu made back-to-back layups for the Wildcats, but the Bears held the 42-33 halftime lead.
Trailing by nine points, the Wildcats went on a 16-4 run over a 4:32 span, aided by a Head steal and fast break dunk, to take a 54-51 lead with 13:37 to play. Danny Walsh hit the three-pointer to break the 51-51 tie, giving the Wildcats their first lead since early in the first half.
But the Bears had an answer once again, scoring the next five points to regain a 56-54 lead. Shawn Church tied the game with a three points, 62-62, with 10:16 to play, before Masner Beauplan scored three straight points for the Wildcats to grab a 65-62 lead. But a Bear three-pointer, followed by six straight points from the foul line gave the visitors a 71-65 lead with 7:22 showing on the clock.
The Wildcats made a late game push, as a Walsh three-point cut the deficit to 78-74 with 3:02 to play. But the Wildcats missed their next three shots, including two from beyond the three-point arc before a Richards' layup brought the home team to within a single bucket, 78-76 with 53 seconds left.
Looking for one more stop, the Bears' leading scorer Jeffrey Hayden came up with a big bucket to push the lead out to 80-76 with 23 seconds to play. Head missed a layup and Walsh would miss a last ditch effort three-pointer, giving the victory to NYIT, 81-76.
The Bears dominated the points in the pain battle, 44-24, leading to a 51.7 field goal percentage. The Bears kept the Wildcats in the game by only shooting 17-of-36 from the foul line.
Richards led the Wildcats with a double-double, scoring 20 points while adding 15 rebounds as well. Head finished with 13 points while Church hit three three-pointers in finishing with 12 points. Beauplan was the final Wildcat in double figures with 11 points. The Wildcats hot 34.8 percentage from the floor, including 10-of-35 from beyond the three-point arc.
The Wildcats continue the CACC/ECC Challenge with a game against LIU Post on Saturday afternoon. Both teams suffered losses on Friday night. The Wildcats will be looking for their first win of the season starting with a 4:00 p.m. opening tip on Saturday at the Complex.