By Admir Durakovic
Two key players returned to the lineup to give Fairleigh Dickinson a much needed boost Saturday night as the Knights zoomed past the Red Flash in the second NEC game for both teams.
FDU traveled to Loretto, Pa. for their fourth straight road game. The Knights snapped a three-game losing streak after a 69–62 loss at Robert Morris on Thursday and improved to 6-8, 1-1.
The Knights started their road saga at UMass then flew to Florida, then traveled back up north for two games in Pennsylvania.
The Knights are home at Rothman Center against Central Connecticut State (0-2, 6-9) Thursday night at 7 p.m.
“I am so happy for every player on our team,” head coach Greg Herenda said, in a news release from Fairleigh Dickinson University Athletics. “We just went through a gauntlet on the road and didn’t have much to show for it and we came into a very difficult building and beat a very very good team.”
Junior 6-8 forward Kaleb Bishop, who rolled his ankle against Robert Morris, returned to the starting lineup despite missing Friday’s practice. Guard Xavier Malone-Key, averaging 13 points a game, returned for the Knights after sitting out against RMU due to a coach’s decision, according to reports.
The Knights finished the first half leading 40-24 on 57 percent shooting on offense and forcing 10 turnovers.
The lead bounced back and forth three times in the first 10 minutes of the half. Then, the Knights started a clinic on offense and defense.
FDU sophomore 5-11 guard Tyler Jones buried a 3 to knot the score at 17-17 with 10:39 to play and the Knights went on a 10-5 run to lead 27-21 with 5 minutes to play in the half. Malone-Key scored 8 and Jenkins added 7 to ignite the Knights into the break.
The Knights only conceded four turnovers in the first half while managing to score 11 points off of SFU’s turnovers.
The Knights continued their domination throughout the second half and finished with a comfortable lead of 18 points.
Bouncing back from his 5-point performance against Robert Morris, senior guard Darnell Edge lead the Knights with 17 points. He shot 54 percent from the field and scored two of four 3-point attempts.
Four other Knights finished in double digits. Malone-Key tallied 14 points and five assists on his return to the starting lineup. Malone-Key was one of only two Knights players to finish the game with more than one turnover, he finished with four.
Sophomore guard Jahlil Jenkins, from Ranson W.V., had another solid performance following his 17-point game against Robert Morris. He finished with 13 points, four rebounds and two steals.
Senior forward Mike Holloway Jr. also finished with 13 points and pulled down five rebounds in 32 minutes of play. Keith Braxton, a 6-5 guard for SFU who is also Holloway’s cousin, finished with 7 points and 8 rebounds in 31 minutes of play.
Last season, the Knights were 1-2 against SFU. FDU lost the first two regular season games but exacted their revenge by winning 84-75 in the first round of the NEC. This season the Knights took the early 1-0 lead in the matchup and the two teams will meet again in the Rothman Center on Feb. 14.
Elsewhere Saturday in the NEC: Robert Morris (2-0, 7-8) nipped Mount St. Marys (0-2, 3-12), 62-59; Sacred Heart (2-0, 6-9) bounced Central Connecticut State, 73-61; LIU-Brooklyn (1-1, 7-7) downed Bryant (1-1, 4-9), 79-70; and St. Francis Brooklyn (1-1, 9-6) outlasted Wagner (1-1, 6-7), 66-59.