Barry Rohrssen's Manhattan College Jaspers traveled to Newark, New Jersey earlier today to open their 2008-09 season against the N.J.I.T Highlanders.
The Highlanders, who were winless with an 0-29 record last season, have a couple of new faces on their team.
Jim Engles, who spent a number of seasons as an assistant coach at Wagner, Rider, and Columbia, is now the Highlanders head coach. N.J.I.T athletic director Lenny Kaplan recognized Engles for being a part of the rebuilding processes of the teams that he was an assistant for, and thought that Engles would fit in well at N.J.I.T.
After sitting out last season, as required of all Division I transfers, Gary Garris started in his first game as a Highlander.
Garris, a junior transfer from American University, joined his younger brother, Justin, at N.J.I.T.
Despite the two new prominent figures, N.J.I.T picked up right where they left off a season ago.
Both teams struggled early on, and the scoreboard read 0-0 until Manhattan's Chris Smith nailed a foul shot with 17:34 left in the first half.
The Jaspers turned the ball over multiple times—amounting to 17 throughout the game—but were able to jump out to a 13-0 lead after 11 minutes of play. Over the course of the first 11 minutes, the Highlanders missed each of their eight shot attempts, and it looked like N.J.I.T would go scoreless in the first half.
However, Gary Garris finally connected on a three-pointer with just over eight minutes left, and the Highlanders pulled within five of Manhattan before the Jaspers went on a 11-0 run to end the half.
Manhattan expected to have a larger lead than 26-10 at halftime—after routing the Highlanders 70-28 in last season's opener—but did not make many adjustments at the break.
The second half was nearly as substandard as the first, but Manhattan prevailed to win 56-32.
N.J.I.T has not won since February 19, 2007, and is now 5-54 since joining Division I basketball.
The Garris brothers combined to score 28 of N.J.I.T's 32 points.
Smith, who had been bothered by his right wrist and left the game early with a head injury, led the Jaspers with 16 points, and also had six boards and three assists. The sophomore from St. Benedict's Prep was the only Jasper who shot well from the floor, as the Jaspers were 19-51 as a team.
Manhattan shot an atrocious 3-15 from behind the extended three-point line after connecting on 23 of their 53 attempts in two exhibition games. The Jaspers are full of players who can shoot the three-ball well, but sometimes they go cold.
Opposing a much smaller N.J.I.T squad, the Jaspers got the job done on the boards. Led by Herve Banogle's 10 rebounds, the Jaspers outdid the Highlanders on the glass, 40-23.
Coach Rohrssen was satisfied with Banogle's performance, and told radio announcer Ed Cohen, "Herve served as an energizer for this team. He came up with some big boards, and also had a few hustle plays."
Patrick Bouli started at the point, which was surprising because last year's point-guard, Antoine Pearson, was honored by the MAAC coaches as a preseason All-MAAC Second Team member.
Pearson entered the game in the middle of the first half, but only saw seven minutes of action, and didn't even attempt a field-goal.
Rohrssen and the Jaspers are happy to walk away with a victory, but they definitely need to work on controlling the ball before Wednesday's home-opener against Morgan State.
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