COLUMBUS, Ohio — “We want to keep dancing.”
Those words from Fairleigh Dickinson guard Grant Singleton, spoken before the Knights played their NCAA Tournament second-round game against Florida Atlantic Sunday night at Nationwide Arena with an improbable trip to the Sweet 16 at Madison Square Garden this week, resonated.
The Knights were still high off its stunning upset victory over Purdue on Friday night — only the second No. 16 seed in NCAA Tournament history to knock out a No. 1 seed — and they wanted more.
As the minutes bled away in Sunday night’s game against FAU, though, FDU had no more, falling to ninth-seeded FAU, 78-70.
“It’s hard to top what we did [Friday] night,” Singleton had said before the game.
Fairleigh Dickinson couldn’t top it. Or even match it. But the Knights (21-16) left the building with nothing to hang their heads about. They trailed 9-0 to start the game, looking like they might get blown out of the building, and rallied with a furious run to begin the second half, taking a 49-44 lead with 12:04 remaining in the game.
But FAU, now 33-3 and headed to the Garden to play Tennessee in the Sweet 16, took control of the game midway through the second half, pushing to a 63-56 lead with 6:33 remaining on a 3-pointer by Brian Greenlee.
That basket capped a 19-7 run and FDU would never recover.
FAU was led by 27 points from Johnell Davis and 14 from Alijah Martin.
For Fairleigh Dickinson, Demetre Roberts led with 20 points and seven rounds, Sean Moore had 14 points and nine rebounds, Joe Munden Jr. had 13 points and four rebounds.
It wasn’t enough.
This was always going to be a different kind of challenge for FDU. The Knights were no longer laying in the weeds and wasn’t going to sneak up on FAU. They, too, had to be gassed both physically and emotionally after shocking Purdue.
The game couldn’t have started out worse for Fairleigh Dickinson as FAU jumped out to a 9-0 lead in first four minutes.
Fairleigh Dickinson didn’t score its first basket until 15:55 remained in the first half when Grant Singleton buried a 3-pointer to cut the FAU lead to 9-3. That basket allowed the Knights to exhale slightly since it surely felt like they’d never score the way the game began.
Fairleigh Dickinson toughed it out and whittled the FAU lead to 15-14 when Ansley Almonor made a 3-pointer with 9:31 remaining in the half.
Those points, however, were the only points of the first half for Almonor, who’d scored 23 points in the Knights “First Four’’ win over Texas Southern on Wednesday before finishing with one point against Purdue Friday.
Fairleigh Dickinson struggled offensively in the first half, at which they trailed 32-25, shooting just 28.6 percent overall (10-of-35) and 18.8 percent (3-of-16) from 3-point range. The Knights’ go-to scorers, senior guards Roberts and Singleton, finished the half with four and six points, respectively.
Moore, the Columbus, Ohio native who was the hero for the Knights in the win over Purdue, leading them with 19 points, had only four first-half points on 1-of-4 shooting.
Florida Atlantic didn’t shoot much better than Fairleigh Dickinson in the first 20, finishing 13-of-37 overall and 3-of-17 from long distance. FAU, though, got seven points each from Martin and Giancarlo Rosado and six each from Davis and Brandon Witherspoon.
The Knights, two nights after doing such a great job on Purdue’s 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey, had trouble handling Rosado inside.
FAU led for 19:08 of the first half and Fairleigh Dickinson never had the lead.
Fairleigh Dickinson looked like a different team starting the second half than it did the first half, scoring the first six points of the half. After an FDU steal, Munden Jr. hit a 3-pointed to cut the halftime lead to 32-27. Then came an FAU turnover that Moore turned into a 3-pointer to shave the lead to 32-30.
Then came a Munden Jr. 3-pointer that gave the Knights their first lead of the game, 33-32, with 18:15 remaining in the game. That capped an 8-0 start to the second half for FDU.
When Fairleigh Dickinson took a 40-36 lead on a 3-pointer from Roberts with 15:54 remaining — its largest lead of the game at the moment — the Knights were on a 15-4 second-half run.
FAU would shortly later tie the game at 44-44 with 13:08 remaining on a Martin 3-pointer. The game was tied again, at 49-49, with 11:16 remaining.
Leave a Reply