TEANECK, N.J. – Maintaining momentum is a fleeting proposition, especially in college basketball. Going on the road and shooting the lights out is the same. On Saturday at the Rothman Center, both forces were a factor as Bryant romped 95-68 over FDU in a Northeast Conference matchup.
The Bulldogs improved to 3-1 in the NEC while FDU is 2-2.
FDU entered the game following a solid road win at LIU Brooklyn. The euphoria of that triumph did not carry over as the Knights struggled all afternoon, especially on defense. Bryant shot (33-56) 59 percent from the floor and (11-17) 65 percent from beyond the arc.
“Sometimes you shoot the ball like that on the road,” said Bryant coach Tim O’Shea. “It happens.” O’Shea will be the first to admit there are times you run your offense and execute, but virtually nothing falls. Then there are times like today. Enjoy them.
A team that will shoot the three (35 percent of their conference field goal attempts are from downtown), Bryant launches long distance attempts in half court, transition and was especially dangerous on cross court ball reversals. “We pressed them, played them man, zoned them,” FDU coach Greg Herenda said. “Nothing worked. They are a quick and were a step quicker. We were a step slower and the result is what you saw.”
Bryant’s willingness to shoot threes forced them to be guarded outside. Given their defensive overplay they employed their excellent dribble penetration to attack the basket on a number of occasions.
FDU trailed by 21 at the half. They came out strong the second half, getting the deficit to seven the first eight minutes. “We did not panic,” O’Shea said. “You have to realize teams make runs and in the college game with the threes that twenty-point lead can disappear in a hurry, so there wasn’t any panicking on our part. We have a veteran team.”
“They weathered our run,” Herenda said. “Then we did not respond.”
The Bulldogs put five starters in double figures. Corey Maynard knocked down three treys and penetrated extremely well on to a game-high 30 points. Alex Francis added 22 points.
Francis, a 6-6 senior forward, has been on another level. “A man among boys,” praised FDU assistant Dwayne Lee.
While developing at a significant rate during his four years at Bryant, O’Shea credits assistant coach Al Skinner for playing a major part in Francis’ success. “Al will talk to Alex a lot one on one,” O ‘Shea said. “He will clue him in on how to handle certain situations, preparation and other factors. Alex buys into it because of where Al has been, a former college head coach and NBA veteran.”
Joe O’Shea, a 6-4 Junior guard and O’Shea’s nephew was impressive, scoring five points while adding nine boards (a game high) and six assists. “He’s a glue guy,” Tim O’Shea said of Joe. “Every team needs one of those to do the little things that are needed.”
Francis entered the game with four consecutive 20-point scoring games. That streak seemed jeopardized as he had four at the half, but he finished with 22. Not a shot was taken out of the offensive framework. “Everything he does is unselfish and not forced,” O’ Shea said of Francis. “He’s just having a tremendous year.”
Herenda said, “We were dealt a piece of humble pie.” The FDU mentor reminded his team before and after the game, perception has changed. “People look at what you have done (defeating Rutgers, Seton Hall and starting 2-1 in NEC play). Suddenly you are the hunted, not the hunter. Every game you must be ready for the opposition’s best shot.
Sidney Sanders Jr. paced FDU with 21 points, while Mathias Seilund added 15 to complement his team-high eight rebounds. Still, as a team there was the issue of field goal defense while shooting just 39 percent on their end.
“We will get back to work tomorrow,” Herenda said. “We will learn from this but put it behind us. We have a two game home stand coming up with St. Francis Brooklyn on Thursday. We’ll be ready.”