FDU Earns Northeast Conference Automatic Bid to March Madness
By Equinox Staff
FDU shut down Josh Cohen, the NEC’s co-player of the year, and beat St. Francis (Pa.) 70-50 in the semifinals of the Northeast Conference tournament Saturday night at home in the Rothman Center.
The Knights, seeded second, will play at No. 1 seeded Merrimack for the conference title Tuesday night. Merrimack is not eligible to advance to the NCAA championship this year. The league voted to award the automatic berth in the postseason to the NEC runner-up if a noneligible team wins the championship. FDU will travel to Merrimack at Andover, Mass., seeking its seventh NEC championship trophy. The Knights will learn their NCAA tourney opponent on March 12
After a 4-22 record last year, FDU reached down to the Division 2 level and hired Tobin Anderson of St. Thomas Aquinas as head coach. He turned the Knights into a surprising championship contender with a balanced offense with three players in the league’s top-10 scorers week to week.
The Knights stepped up against the Red Flash with a swarming double-teaming pressure defense pestering the 6-10 Cohen, who finished with 12 points after averaging 22 a game and torching FDU with a career-high 31 points in a 82-72 win on Feb. 23
FDU, which one basketball stats guru says is one of the shortest starting teams in Division I, stamped its ticket to the “Big Dance” by beating St. Francis for the second time in three tries this season.
FDU improved to 19-14 overall, led by grad student Demetre Roberts with 18 points, Ansley Almonor with 15 and Grant Singleton with 12.
FDU owned a 37-26 advantage in rebounds, hit 9-of-10 free throws and came away with six steals and forced 12 turnovers.
“We’ve been tough all year long, we’ve been good all year long but we haven’t been a great defensive team,” Tobin said in a broadcast interview after the game. “This is the best game we played defensively all year long. So, we wait until game 33 to play that way but it’s great. Now, we have a championship to win Tuesday night.”