The men’s basketball team beat USC Upstate 81-80 on Saturday, Jan. 27, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, after falling 66-60 at home to NJIT on Wednesday, Jan. 24.
Nick Masterson and James Scott led the way with 21 and 15 points respectively in the loss to the Highlanders. A slow start for the Owls in the first half was followed by a much better patch as they trailed by just three points at the half.
A 16-8 deficit for the Owls eight minutes into the first half saw a stretch that had all but one starter for the Highlanders get on to the board. Five early turnovers by the Owls contributed to this early deficit, but they quickly regained focus.
The Owls were quick to tighten the reins on their ball-handling, and the next eight minutes were dominated by them. While limiting themselves to just one turnover, Scott and Tyler Hooker led the team on a run in which NJIT was outscored by five points. The pair was responsible for scoring and assisting on 13 of 17 points scored, bringing the team to within three points going into halftime.
The beginning of the second half saw a repetition of the issues seen at the beginning of the game. Within the first five minutes, the Highlanders had forced six turnovers from which they scored all 11 of their opening points of the half en route to a commanding 43-33 lead.
Leading scorer Anthony Tarke scored nine of the Highlanders’ first 11 points in the second half, helping extend the lead to 15 points. The Owls refused to be brushed off so easily and, once again, hunkered down for what would be a hotly contested final 10 minutes.
Taking full advantage of missed free throws from the Highlander side, as well as a more disciplined offensive approach, the Owls went on a 14-7 run that brought the score to 57-49.
Despite cutting the lead to four in the final minute of the game, the Owls could not claw all the way back from their deficit.
Head coach Al Skinner was impressed in his teams’ trust in the system that worked for getting them back in the game. Sticking to Skinner’s plan got the Owls close enough in the game for what was an exciting finish.
In Saturday’s matchup, sophomore Anthony Wilson led the way for the Owls against the Spartans, scoring a career-high 22 points off the bench and hitting the game-winning shot.
Wilson was nearly unstoppable, shooting 7-8 from the field and 8-9 from the free-throw line. In a game where the Owls trailed for long stretches, Wilson’s consistency guided them to victory.
Two other key players in this game were Masterson and Hooker. Masterson was a marksman from three-point range, tallying 16 points, while Hooker added 11 points off the bench.
The Owls managed to come back from a 13-point deficit with 13 minutes remaining in the second half. They were trailing 65-52 but then made a rally, going on a 29-15 run to end the game. The effort marked the largest comeback of the season for the Owls.
As a team, KSU had sufficient numbers, emphasizing its aggressiveness and hustle throughout the game. With a field goal percentage of 45 percent, the team was taking high-quality shots inside the 3-point line.
However, the Owls need to move the ball around and look for the best shot as opposed to firing away from three so often. The team finished with a 28.6 percent three-point field-goal percentage.
The Owls have another matchup coming on Saturday, Feb. 3, against USC Upstate at 4:30 p.m. in the Convocation Center and will be available to watch on ESPN 3.