TEANECK, N.J. – On one of those eventful nights, so typical with Northeast Conference meetings, Fairleigh Dickinson edged St. Francis Brooklyn at the Rothman Center. The Knights pulled out an 86-85 victory in a game featuring nine ties and as many lesd changes.
Three points of emphasis:
1. Going small. After Scooter Gillette and Mathias Seilund fouled out, FDU coach Greg Herenda decided to go small. “We used that down the stretch at Rutgers early in the year (an FDU victory). We thought it could help us tonight.” It did as the smaller lineup caused problems for St. Francis causing a few critical turnovers in the waning moments.
2. The foul line. St. Francis was shooting near 90% from the line (26 of 30 at the time) when Sheldon Hagigal stepped to the line with seconds remaining and his team ahead by one. Hagigal missed both shots. FDU rebounded and Malachi Nix was fouled with three seconds left. The freshmasn guard calmly hit both. On the final play St. Francis could not complete a long inbounds pass to get a shot off.
For the game, St. Francis shot 81 percent from the line and Hagigal had a solid 18-point, seven-rebound night. The final seconds, though, seemed to stand out as a blemish on what was overall a commendable effort for the freshman guard.
3. Jalen Cannon of St. Francis scored his 1000th career point and led all scorers (23 points) and rebounders (11). A major impact, though, came from the play of FDU’s Sidney Sanders, Jr. The senior guard shot just 4-20 but led the Knights with 20 points while handing out nine assists.
FDU is now 3-2, the same record as St. Francis, in NEC action. “Getting this was big,” Herenda said. “One of our goals is to host a first round NEC playoff game. By doing so we have to stay in the upper division of the conference as long as possible so this was big.”
There was no hangover from the lopsided loss to Bryant the past Saturday. “That game was behind us,” FDU senior guard Sidney Sanders, Jr. said. “We moved on and right from the next time out had a good series of practices. We were ready tonight.”
Sanders Jr. added four steals to his offensive numbers. “His attitude is contagious,” said Herenda of Sanders Jr. “He can also go right by people and penetrate. That is very big on this level.”
Herenda noted Sanders’ Jr.’s guidance is already rubbing off on Nix. “He (Nix) hadn’t a field goal made in NEC play,” Herenda said. “But at halftime he wanted the toughest defensive assignment (St. Francis Senior guard Ben Mockford). When he got to the line late both free throws did not hit the rim, nice clean shots.”
The result: a thrilling conference victory.