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Fairleigh Dickinson University advances to NEC Tournament Semifinals

Fairleigh Dickinson University men’s basketball head coach Greg Herenda admitted in the post-game conference when the team got down 6-0 early in the first half against 7th seeded Wagner in the Northeast Conference Tournament Quarterfinals at the Rothman Center on Wednesday night, he thought they might get shut out. “Wagner brought it hard, we couldn’t get a rebound and down 6-0 and was terrified.”

Knights senior guard Darnell Edge finally broke the drought by draining a jumper with less than four minutes remaining and also burying a three-pointer. Down 8-7, Mike Holloway put FDU ahead for the first time in the contest with under 13 minutes to go. Edge knocked his second tray as FDU started to get into an offensive rhythm.

The Seahawks went nearly seven minutes without a bucket that enabled the Knights to go on a 16-1 run boosting the advantage to 27-10 with six minutes left. It was not until the four-minute mark that Wagner ended their futility on a lay-up by Chase Freeman. FDU continued to pour it on shooting a blistering 63 percent from the perimeter while canning six triples and perfect 9 of 9 from the free throw line. Edge (13 points) and sophomore Elyjah Williams (12 points) ended up scoring 25 points combined in the half as the Knights carried a commanding 43-14 lead into the break.

FDU employed a suffocating defense that limited Wagner to 24 percent shooting from the field, 16 percent from behind the arc and causing 11 turnovers that led to 18 points for FDU.

“We played really well against a good opponent, it was just one of those nights,” said Herenda. “My guys really stepped up and we defense in the first half as we have played in my six years I have been here. Last year we held them to 19 at the half and this year 14 at the half. It was our defense, rebounding, and ability to get out on the break and make shots.”

Edge on the first half, “We know starting the game we would come out with a lot of energy and set the tone of the game. We just moved the ball, I was open and Elyjah Williams made his shots. As part of our game we like to run and get good looks.”

Limited to six points in the first half, senior forward Mike Holloway Jr. caught fire tallying 12 points finishing 6 of 7 from the field and charity stripe line. FDU did not step off the gas pedal pushing the margin as many 40 points allowing Herenda to empty the bench in the remaining minutes as the Knights cruised to the 84-46 victory.

“It just starts with the way we practice real hard every day and don’t take any possessions off,” said Mike Holloway Jr. “We did a good job with the scouting reports and how to stop their players.”

Holloway Jr. was among five players that reached double figures, Williams finished with 17 points, Edge tallied 15 points, and Kaleb Bishop and Jahlil Jenkins each contributed 11 points apiece. FDU shut down Wagner’s leading scorer Romone Saunders, coming into the game averaging 16.7 points, Saunders managed only nine on 3-of-14 shooting from the field. Elijah Davis led the Seahawks in scoring with 23 points.

“Our crowd was tremendous and support from administration that just got people into the building,” Herenda said. “It was one of those cool days to be a part of Fairleigh Dickinson University and NEC. Humbled, grateful and excited.”

“I have a lot of faith in my team and Darnell made the three’s to get us back, we got the lead and into the flow. Darnell is a very underrated defensive player, hiss assignment last two times we played Wagner and Romone Saunders is a tremendous player but last two times Darnell kept him in single digits and just made him work and work and made it difficult the entire game.”

Next up for FDU (18-13) is 4th seed Robert Morris (17-15) on Saturday at the Rothman Center with tip-off at 12:00 p.m. During the regular season the teams’ split with the Knights defeating the Colonials in a double overtime thriller back on February 2.

“To do it against someone else is our job and to that level is great,” said Herenda. “We’re not here to win games by two or five points but basketball games and now 1-0 and another game to play on Saturday. We have a formula that has been working, just won 12 out of 14 basketball games and talk about it all the time it’s not who we play but it’s how we play.”

Sunil Sunder Raj

Sunil Sunder Raj

Sunil is the Rockland Boulders Beat Writer for DoubleGSports.com and also covers North Jersey High School Sports
Sunil Sunder Raj
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