Fairleigh-Dickinson’s small-ball approach and three-point shooting kept it alive and dancing Wednesday night with an 84-61 victory over Texas Southern in the First Four at UD Arena.
The Knights (19-15) are the shortest team in Division I according to kenpom.com. Next, in a true David vs. Goliath matchup, the Knights will face No. 1 seed Purdue and 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey, the Big Ten player of the year, in a first-round game at 6:50 p.m. Friday in Columbus.
FDU shot 34.6% from three-point range this season and its opponents shot 36.5%. The Knights turned that around against TSU (14-21), making 11 of 27 for 40.7%. TSU finished 1 for 17 from three-point range for 5.9% and finally made one with 4:54 left after missing its first 14 attempts. As a result, TSU’s 46-18 points-in-the-paint advantage meant little.
All five FDU starters scored in double figures led by Ansley Almonor’s 23 points and 5-of-8 three-point shooting. Joe Munden Jr. added 17 points, Demetre Roberts 15, Grant Singleton 13 and Sean Moore 10.
John Walker III led TSU with 22 points and Joirdon Karl Nicholas added 10.
FDU won for the second time at the First Four. The Knights defeated Prairie View A&M in 2019. Texas Southern played in its third straight First Four and fourth since 2018. The Tigers won their three previous appearances against North Carolina Central, Mount St. Mary’s and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
The first half was marked by runs. FDU jumped out to a 14-2 lead with three of their seven first-half 3 pointers. TSU chipped away and then forced an FDU timeout with a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 26-23 and force an FDU timeout.
FDU responded with an 8-0 run, then closed the half with a 19-4 run to lead 45-29. The Knights shot 53.8% in the half and made 7 of 15 three-point attempts. TSU, as expected against the smaller Knights, outscored FDU 26-10 in the paint but shot only 42.4% and missed all eight of its three-point attempts.
Almonor opened the second half with a 3-pointer to push the lead to 19. TSU rallied to 54-44, but FDU went on a 17-6 run to lead 71-50 and led by as many as 25.
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