Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Fairleigh Dickinson: 2015-16 Northeast Men's Basketball Champions



NEW YORK -- Fairleigh Dickinson coach Greg Herenda gave a timeline on how his team was thinking of winning the Northeast Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

"In July it would have been a stretch," he said of a team that was coming off a losing season that saw them drop 15 straight at one point. "In November, December it wasn't a shock to think that anymore. We put Dayton on the board in July."

Dayton and the First Four is where the Knights are most likely headed after beating Wagner 87-79 on Tuesday night to win the NEC Tournament.

"Hey, it's a night in the lights of America and an opportunity to win," he said. "If we win a First Four game, a No. 1 seed has to go down sometime. It's going to happen. I'm not predicting it, but if you come out and guard us we'll drive by you and if you don't we'll shoot over you. I don't care who we play."

That was the formula for success against Wagner.

Darian Anderson scored 28 points and Earl Potts Jr. had 27 to lead FDU to its fifth NCAA Tournament bid and first since 2005.

Anderson had 18 points in the second half and Potts had 16 when the Knights took control on the way to their first NCAA bid since 2005, and the first under Herenda, who is in his third season.

Potts has the same idea as his coach in terms of the NCAA Tournament.

"Whoever we play is going to have a hard time," he said. "We can go and win a couple of games. We're just not going to show up."

Potts scored FDU's first nine points of the second half as it took the lead for good on his 3-pointer that gave the second-seeded Knights (18-14) the lead at 51-47.

They were ahead by as many as 10 points, the first time on a 3 by Marques Townes with 4:15 to play.

Anderson was 8 of 16 from the field, including 2 of 4 from 3-point range, while Potts was 11 of 19, including 4 of 8 from long range. The Knights were 9 of 19 from 3-point range.

"We didn't play good defense in the first half but we got it right in the second half," Potts said.

Corey Henson led the top-seeded Seahawks (23-9) with 24 points, while Michael Carey had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Wagner finished 4 of 24 from 3-point range and 21 of 33 from the free throw line.

"We just didn't make shots and their effort kicked up a notch and ours didn't," Carey said. "I think it was effort."

The win was the fifth straight for the Knights and it ended Wagner's seven-game winning streak. The teams split the season series with Potts hitting a 3 at the buzzer to give the Knights an overtime win at Wagner.

The game was played before a packed, sellout crowd of about 2,100 at Wagner's Spiro Sports Center and the FDU fans in attendance rushed the court at the final buzzer.

"I knew our crowd would storm the floor," Anderson said. "We knew we had to make a lot of adjustments from last year to make this happen and we ended up doing so."

The first half started and ended about as different as possible.

The Seahawks opened the game on a 13-2 run, getting the ball inside the Knights' 2/3 zone for shots down low. FDU got as close as four points before the Seahawks again scored inside often to take a 31-20 lead with 3:35 left in the half.

The Knights, taking advantage of Wagner turnovers, closed the half on a 13-4 run to cut Wagner's lead to 35-33. Potts closed it with a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left.

Both teams struggled from 3-point range in the first half, Wagner making 3 of 11 and the Knights just slightly better at 3 for 10.

"They made a couple of tough 3s and a couple of bombs," Wagner coach Bashir Mason said. "There's no way I'm going to let our season be defined by one game."

TIP-INS:

FDU: The Knights are the third-youngest roster in Division I with two redshirt juniors and all sophomores and freshmen. ... FDU last played in the NEC title game in 2006. ... FDU's NCAA appearances were 1985, 1988, 1998 and 2005. ... The Knights reached the title game with wins over St. Francis, Pa. and Mount St. Mary's. ... FDU's Director of Basketball Operations is Pete Lappas, the son of former Villanova and Massachusetts coach Steve Lappas.

Wagner: This was the first time Wagner hosted the championship game since 2003. ... The Seahawks reached the title game with wins over Robert Morris and LIU Brooklyn. ... The 87 points were the most allowed by Wagner this season.

UP NEXT:

FDU: NCAA Tournament.

Wagner: NIT.
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