Highlanders Set to Invade Gola

New Jersey Institute of Technology entered their first season of NCAA Division One basketball after jumping from Division II with realistic expectations. After a quick start by winning their first two games at the division one level, the Highlanders have come back to reality losing 14 of their last 15 games. It doesn't figure to get any easier when they come to Tom Gola arena.

N.J.I.T Probable Starters: (3-14)
1 Clayton Barker 5"10 SR. G
10 Andrew Engle 6"1 FR. G
00 Dan Stonkus 6"9 FR. C
24 Kraig Peters 6"5 JR. F
35 Nesho Milosevic 6"8 SO. F

Head coach Jim Casciano is entering his 6th season as the Highlanders coach. The Drexel graduate knew entering the season that the change in levels would be a huge jump. "The whole thing has been a learning experience," Casciano told the Associated Press last week.. "Then you have to get used to the level of talent, the consistency of possessions, quality of coaching and just the excitement that surrounds Division I games." There lies the problem for Casciano. He is fighting other Division programs with non Division I players. Their two best players are junior Kraig Peters, and senior captain Clayton Barker. Peters and Barker are the only two players averaging double figures for the Highlanders and are most likely doing so because they are so experienced and are the focal point of their team. Neither was recruited to N.J.I.T.to play division one basketball. Barker once scored 45 points in a game and holds the school's record for most points with that outburst. Nesho Milosevic is the player with the most upside but he is still a relatively young sophmore from Serbia. He leads the team in rebounding with over 7 boards per game. Freshman Dan Stonkus is Casciano's first Division I recruit. He provides defense and rebounding for a team short on size.

The Highlanders started the season strong upsetting Manhattan and Rider. Since then they have lost 14 out of their last 15 games, including their most recent loss to IPFW this past Saturday. In that game they committed 14 turnovers to only 5 to IPFW. They allow opponents to shoot 44% from the floor while only shooting 39%. Their main problem stems from turning the ball over on an average of 18 times a game. That will not work against more athletic Division 1 teams and that shows in the fact that NJIT has turned the ball over almost 100 times more than their opponents this season.

The Explorers return from Dayton after an 84-82 loss to the Flyers. Darnell Harris and Rodney Green continue to lead the Explorer attack scoring 14 points and 13 points per game respectively. They continue to do very well on the glass out-rebounding opponents by over 4 per game and continue to shoot the ball well from the floor at just over 47%, both good for second and third place in A-10. The Achilles heel has been free throw shooting but the Explorers are coming off a 25 for 31 performance against Dayton and are shooting 73% from the stripe the last 3 games. Coach John Giannini's squad has lost 7 of their last 8 games, but have played progressively better. The youth of this team has begun to eat experience and that experience gained has allowed the young Explorers to remain competitive in the tough early Atlantic 10 schedule the team has faced early.

La Salle should be able to use pressure defense to force the Highlanders into turnovers, which should lead to Explorer transition baskets. Their athleticism should allow them to get second chance opportunities. The worry is the Explorers come out sluggish from all of their recent travel and the possibility of over-looking the Highlanders with Penn on the horizon Thursday. Still the Explores should have plenty to send the Highlanders to their 15th loss in the last 16 games.

Keys to Victory:

Play hard and don't overlook N.J.I.T
Pressure the basketball
Run at every opportunity

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