Men's basketball gives ECC-leading Bridgeport scare in defeat

Tyler Ancrum flies to the hoop during Saturday's game against Bridgeport.
Tyler Ancrum flies to the hoop during Saturday's game against Bridgeport.

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. — Since the calendar flipped to 2018, the NYIT men's basketball team has been highly competitive within the East Coast Conference. The latest evidence came Saturday, albeit in a loss.

NYIT, which had surrendered a program-record 131 points at Bridgeport back in December, this time led the first-place Purple Knights at halftime. Bridgeport finally overtook NYIT on a steal and layup by Carlos DeJesus with 17 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in the game en route to a 86-81 victory over the Bears at Recreation Hall.

With its 10th straight victory, 24th-ranked Bridgeport improved to 19-4 overall and 12-1 in the ECC.

Meanwhile, NYIT lost its ninth straight game to fall to 3-21 overall and 1-11 in the ECC.

Yet the Bears have now led at halftime in each of their last three games. And they twice have taken opponents to double-overtime in losses in the last month.

"Right now the team is improving every time we take the floor," coach Kevin Hamilton said. "I am proud of them for their effort and commitment to each other."

On Saturday, freshman Laurynas Stonkus made his third straight start and continued to impress. Stonkus, who had a career-high 17 points against Mercy on Wednesday, this time logged a career-high 30 minutes and showed an inclination to drive to the basket en route to producing 10 points, seven rebounds, one block, one assist and one steal.

Kieran Hamilton (22 points), Jeffrey Hayden (22) and Opong Bramble (10) also finished in double-figures in scoring for NYIT.

NYIT led by as many as six points in the first half — 26-20 after a dunk by Stonkus with 6:34 remaining and 34-28 after Hamilton sank a pair of free throws with 2:56 to go in the period.

Bridgeport then opened as large as a 13-point second-half lead, but NYIT fought until the end. Stonkus' rebound of his own three-point shot and layup pulled NYIT within 83-79 with 41 seconds remaining in the game.