While the Patriots finished their season 18-1 and Memphis failed to preserve their perfect record, let’s have some recognition for the hapless Highlanders of the New Jersey Institute Of Technology. With Saturday’s 76-50 loss to Utah Valley State, NJIT became the Worst Division 1 Men’s Hoop Squad of All Time, topping the 0-28 mark of 1992’s Prairie View and 2005’s Savannah State teams. In today’s era of newsroom budget cuts, can you imagine how thrilled the Newark Star-Ledger’s Ben Webster must’ve been to accept a company trip to Orem, UT?
“Until today we thought we were going to win games,” said NJIT coach Jim Casciano (above), who announced his resignation last week but coached his team’s final game. “Whatever games we had left on the schedule we thought we were going to win.”
But a win never came, and the loss was the team’s 33rd straight, one shy of Sacramento State’s Division 1 record from 1997-99. Add to that, the Highlanders were the only Division 1 team this season with more turnovers (577) than field goals (550).
NJIT opened the season with a 70-28 loss to Manhattan, then Casciano took a 12-game leave of absence for what he revealed yesterday was a cancer scare, problems with diabetes and a bout with depression.
“If I hadn’t stepped back, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything,” he said.
Utah Valley State (14-14) ensured the Highlanders’ final game would be yet another loss with a 24-8 run to close out the first half. NJIT got as close as eight with just over eight minutes left but trailed 49-25 at halftime.
Ryan Toolson finished with a game-high 22 points for Utah Valley State. NJIT senior captain Kraig Peters, playing in his final game, led NJIT with 13 points.
“You can’t let it get to you,” Peters said. “There’s a lot of stuff that’s five times worse than this. I would never regret playing here.”
“When you’ve been beaten down and lost as much as we have there’s going to be that time in the game when it’s like ‘here we go again.’ That’s what happened today,” Casciano said. “Utah Valley played as well as they probably could in the first 10 minutes … but then I look up and it’s a 10-point game.”
It didn’t help NJIT when leading scorer Nesho Milosevic picked up his third foul with more than 11 minutes to go in the first half. With Milosevic forced to the bench, Peters became the sole focus of the Wolverines defense.
“It’s tough being the focus of teams every night,” Peters said. “It’s not tough just because this year, but it’s been tough last year and the year before.”