Fairleigh Dickinson tops St. Francis (Pa.), earns NCAA bid
LORETTO, Pennsylvania (AP) — Darnell Edge scored 21 points, Kaleb Bishop and Jahlil Jenkins added 20 points apiece, and Fairleigh Dickinson earned its second trip to the NCAA tournament in four years with an 85-76 victory over St. Francis (Pa.) in the Northeastern Conference Tournament championship on Tuesday night.
The second-seeded Knights (20-13) shot 64 percent (30 of 47) from the field and beat the top-seeded Red Flash (18-14) on the road for the second time this season. Fairleigh Dickinson’s starters accounted for all 95 of its points. Elyjah Williams and Mike Holloway Jr. scored 12 points each for Fairleigh Dickinson, which used a 17-8 run to close the first half to take control and never let St. Francis get closer than three points in the second half.
“We found a way to win tonight over a great team,” Fairleigh Dickinson coach Greg Herenda said. “We started 1-4 in the conference and just found a way to come together and win 14 of the last 16.”
Bishop made 8 of his 10 shots for the Knights, including all three of his 3-point attempts, and added a team-high 10 rebounds. Jenkins went 6 of 10 from the field, including a 3-pointer as the shot clock wound down with less than 3 minutes left to fend off a St. Francis rally.
“I told him, ‘You’re all-conference. Go out and show that you are the best point guard in the conference,'” Herenda said. “And he looked at me and said, ‘I got you, coach.’ And he showed it, he’s one of the great ones, he’s got my back.”
The Red Flash were searching for their first NCAA appearance since 1991 and just the second in school history but couldn’t slow the Knights down when it mattered.
Jamaal King led St. Francis with 21 points and eight assists. Isaiah Blackmon finished with 13 points, but the Red Flash made just 4 of 17 free throws while Fairleigh Dickinson converted 18 of 20 at the line.
“The guys who normally make those free throws missed them,” St. Francis coach Rob Krimmel said. “Basketball is a funny game. We had a couple of shots roll around. The inability to make stops when we needed the stops. The number will stick out for now but it won’t haunt us.”
Fairleigh Dickinson: A likely No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament
St. Francis: A spot in the National Invitational Tournament as a reward for winning the NEC’s regular season title.