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Fairleigh Dickinson MBB earns first conference win of season

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In their first Northeast Conference game of the season, the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights men’s basketball team defeated the Merrimack Warriors, 71-63, at the Rothman Center in Hackensack.

The Knights (7-8) were stunned in the first seven minutes of play after Merrimack (2-13) went on a 12-4 run with a combination of good shooting by the Warriors and a poor shot selection by Fairleigh Dickinson.  

Merrimack held the lead until the 8:21n mark of the first half, where the Knights began to gain momentum and tie the game at 20 each.  After tying the game, Fairleigh Dickinson went into a full-court press which would backfire after Merrimack’s sophomore guard Nick Filchner drained a three, followed by another three by teammate and senior guard Jordan McKoy.

The Knights tried battling back, making it a two-point deficit after back-to-back baskets within 20 seconds by freshman guard Brayden Reynolds and junior guard Joe Munden Jr. making the game 26-24 with 6:34 left in the first half.  

Merrimack’s offense seemed too much for the Knights in the first as the Warriors went on a 9-0 run in under a minute and a half of play.

FDU’s lackluster first half heavily came from their inability to maintain possession of the ball, along with their low shooting percentage in the first 10 minutes of the game, which came from Merrimack’s zone defense which allowed the Warriors to get five steals in the first 20 minutes of play.

Both teams were in the bonus towards the end of the first half, with Fairleigh Dickinson having eight fouls and Merrimack with nine in the first.

The first half concluded at 39-33, with Merrimack maintaining their lead throughout the first half.  Fairleigh Dickinson sophomore forward Ansley Almonor led the first half in scoring with 14 points.

The second half started with aggressive defense by Merrimack’s Jordan Minor, blocking two shots inside three minutes of the second half.  But there may have been too much aggression after getting called for a flagrant foul after grabbing a rebound and flinging his arms in what seemed to not be inadvertent.  This was Minor’s third foul, however, Merrimack head coach Joe Gallo kept his team’s season-leading scorer in the game.

Fairleigh Dickinson was able to exploit the defense after the Warriors’ best defensive player in Minor was in serious foul trouble.  The NEC Front Row broadcasters referred to this as a potential momentum shifter in the game.

The Knights then went on a 10-0 run inside four minutes of play, with the last bucket coming from a shot from beyond the arc from the graduate student guard Grant Singleton, giving the Knights their first lead of the game with a score of 46-45 with 13:00 left to play.

Fairleigh Dickinson and Merrimack began to trade buckets, with one being a strong two-handed slam by freshman forward Jo’el Emanuel and Jordan Minor obtaining his fourth personal foul.  He remained in the game in large part of his offensive prowess.  FDU was also experiencing foul trouble having three players with three or more fouls with five minutes left in the second half.

The Knights started to run away with their lead, going on a 14-3 run in five minutes of play with 5:05 left on the game clock, the Knights led 64-52.  Grant Singleton was heavily responsible for this run, scoring 10 points, grabbing two rebounds, and getting a steal.

Merrimack’s Minor and Fairleigh Dickinson’s Almonor fouled out with less than a minute to play, but the game was already out of reach as the final buzzer came, and the Knights took their first conference win of the season.

Each team had three players in double-digit scoring, but Almonor finished with a game-high 25 points, along with nine rebounds and two blocks.  However, Singleton single-handedly took over, allowing the Knights to have the comfortable lead.

The Fairleigh Dickinson Knights will host the Centenary Gentlemen at the Rothman Center in a New Year’s Eve matchup at noon, looking to extend their win streak to two games.

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