JWU men's basketball beats Whittier in home opener to improve to 5-0

JWU men's basketball beats Whittier in home opener to improve to 5-0

DENVER – Extending the best start in program history, the Johnson & Wales men's basketball team improved to 5-0 with a 99-87 win over visiting Whittier on Saturday at the Wildcat Center.

Jontrell Herman and Andrew Romero III scored 23 points each to lead the Wildcats to victory in their 2018-19 home opener, the second straight season they've opened their home slate with a win.

A 3-pointer by Romero (Northglenn, Colo.) to beat the first-half buzzer gave JWU a 45-44 halftime lead, but the Wildcats were forced to mount a second-half comeback for the second straight game to remain unbeaten.

The Poets (1-5) made a pair of 3s to open the second half and grab a five-point lead before the Wildcats came storming back with a 13-0 run that proved to be the difference in the game. Freshman guard Charles Young gave the Wildcats a huge boost off the bench during the rally, totaling 10 points, three rebounds and two steals in just seven minutes.

"We just started to play more defense, started to work together as a team, talking more, and our press started to come out and help more," Young (Park Hill, Colo.) said of the 13-0 run that he played a critical role in with his energy and defensive intensity. "Defense sparks our offense as a team. So if we're talking on defense, we're working all together."

The Wildcats forced 18 turnovers, converting those possessions into 23 points. After shooting 38.9 percent in the first 20 minutes, coach Quintin Grogan's team shot 57.6 percent (19-of-33) in the second half as the Wildcats built a 22-point advantage with 6:33 to go on a jumper by Romero, the reigning SCAC player of the week. 

Herman (Duck Hill, Miss.) recorded his first double-double of the season with 10 rebounds to go with six assists. Jordan Miles was one of five Wildcats in double figures with 19 points, eight rebounds and three blocks while Bailey Stephens finished with nine points, five boards and two steals. King Grant-Perry, who sparked the second-half run with a steal and transition dunk, narrowly missed a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds.  

JWU will look for its sixth straight win to open the season Sunday at noon against UC Santa Cruz.