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Drexel comes back but falls short in 70-67 loss to NJIT

Trailing by 12 points in the second half, the Dragons cut the deficit to one late in the game, but the Highlanders held them off.

Drexel's Alihan Demir passes the ball under the net in the second half against NJIT.
Drexel's Alihan Demir passes the ball under the net in the second half against NJIT.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

Drexel made a strong comeback but just came up short. A missed three-point attempt at the buzzer preserved NJIT's 70-67 win over the Dragons on Wednesday at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

The Dragons dropped their second straight loss in falling to 3-4 while NJIT improved to 7-1.

Drexel's Alihan Demir, a 6-foot-9 junior,  had 18 points and 14 rebounds.

The Highlanders were led by 6-10 senior Abdul Lewis, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds.

"I thought our guys, the ball just didn't fall our way and we had some unfortunate bounces for sure," Drexel coach Zach Spiker said.

Drexel trailed by 12 points with less than 14 minutes left in the second half but cut the margin to 66-65 on a corner three-pointer by Demir with 1 minute, 29 seconds left. NJIT's Lewis then missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:14 remaining.

Drexel's James Butler missed a corner jumper and NJIT's Mohamed Bendary hit two free throws, extending the lead to 68-65 with 44.4 seconds left.

Troy Harper, who scored 13 points, cut the lead to 68-67 on a baseline drive with 28.3 seconds remaining.  NJIT's Shyquan Gibbs then hit 1 of 2 free throws, making it 69-67 with 19.7 seconds on the clock.

Drexel got a good look when Camren Wynter drove to the basket and kicked it out to the Dragons' top three-point threat, Trevon John, whose shot from beyond the arc just missed.

With 8.7 seconds left, NJIT's Shawdale Jones made it 70-67, hitting 1 of 2 free throws. Drexel had one final chance, but a forced three-point attempt by Zach Walton was way off and the Highlanders had survived.

Drexel scored the game's first seven points, but NJIT settled down and led by 45-36 at halftime. The big difference was three-point shooting. NJIT was 5 of 9 in the first half while Drexel was 1 of 7.

In the second half it was reversed, with Drexel 5 of 14 and NJIT 1 of 8.

NJIT gained national attention by beating a ranked Michigan team, 72-70, in 2014. The Highlanders have been a Division I program since the 2006-2007 season.

Last year, NJIT beat visiting Drexel, 65-53, in the teams' first meeting. The Highlanders were picked sixth in the preseason Atlantic Sun Conference poll.

Drexel was coming off Sunday's 81-71 loss at Bowling Green. Junior point guard Kurk Lee missed his fourth game in the last five with an upper body injury. Wynter, a freshman point guard, has helped fill the void.

Against NJIT, Wynter finished with 10 points and three assists.

"Credit to Drexel — they came back and had a big surge in the second half," said NJIT coach Brian Kennedy. "It came down to stops and rebounds and we were able to get some big stops and rebounds."