Royals Lead No. 16 NJCU For 25 Minutes Before Falling

Tariq Caldwell showed a solid all-around game, setting season highs in points and rebounds. (photo by Scott Eyre)
Tariq Caldwell showed a solid all-around game, setting season highs in points and rebounds. (photo by Scott Eyre)

The Runnin Royals built a double-digit lead on No. 16 New Jersey City University Friday night, but couldn't make it stick in a 76-67 loss.

Eastern Mennonite (1-2) returns to the court Saturday at 3:00pm to wrap up the two-day EMU Tip-Off Invitational, taking on Mount Aloysius (1-2). The Mounties lost to Bridgewater College in Friday's other game, 63-53. Bridgewater takes on NJCU at 1:00pm on Saturday.

Feeding off the energetic EMU student section, the men got the tempo rolling in their favor early on, turning an 11-9 deficit into a 26-16 lead. A three pointer from Michael Williams (Richmond, Va./Varina) capped the 17-5 run for the double-digit lead at the 9:48 mark.

Preseason All-American Sam Toney then struck for the Gothic Knights, hitting back-to-back threes to quickly slice the margin to four points.

The Royals kept in front, however, until NJCU finally tied things up at 40-40 shortly before halftime.

Eastern Mennonite had another spurt to start the second, scoring the first seven points. A lay-in from Tariq Caldwell (Richmond, Va./Lee-Davis) bumped the men to a 47-40 lead just 2:42 into the half.

But with 9:15 to play, Toney made a clutch play, getting fouled on a three pointer. He added the free throw for a four-point play, putting New Jersey City ahead 56-55, their first lead since being up 11-9 early in the game.

The teams traded leads until Toney went on another flurry, hitting a trio of three pointers in the span of less than two minutes, giving the Gothic Knights a margin of 70-62 with 4:18 to go. EMU couldn't cut into the lead from there, going into the 76-67 final.

The Royals actually out-shot NJCU, 45% to 41%, and had a +3 rebounding margin. But the men shot 0-for-7 from outside in the second half, and finished -10 in turnover margin. They also struggled at the free throw line, making only 14-of-29.

Sammy Thomas (Owings, Md./Northern) had another impressive outing with 16 points and 10 rebounds, his first double double of the year. He shot 6-10 from the floor and added a pair of steals. Travis Clower (Romney, W.V./Hampshire) also hit double figures with 10 points.

Caldwell played solid defense on Toney before getting into foul trouble, also contributing eight points and seven boards. Xavier McCants (Olney, Md./Sherwood) added eight points, four assists and two steals, while Williams scored eight off the bench.

NJCU's Toney led all scorers with 28 points, hitting 7-of-11 three pointers. Yuri Brutus had 11 points and three steals.