We may never be sure this season about the talent Greg Herenda has at Fairleigh Dickinson, just two years into a majot rebuilding project, and having graduated the player who led the Knights back to the NEC Tournament last season in Sidney Sanders.
But just two games into the 2014-15 NEC campaign, we do know this: FDU is not going to lie down and accept its fate, and if you’re going to beat them, you better make sure the job is done.
After the Knights used red-shot shooting (primarily from freshman Darian Anderson) to lead by as many as 13 and then 10 at the half, host LIU Brooklyn stormed back and appeared to leave FDU for dead with a three-point lead and all kinds of momentum with 4:24 to go
But somehow, the Knights dug deep, made some big plays at both ends, and moved to 2-0 in the NEC (both on the road) with a 75-69 win over LIU Brooklyn at the WRAC.
“We couldn’t keep them off the foul line, they did a great job of just sticking it down our throats in the second half,” Herenda said. “I think we made one big stop there toward the end that really catapulted our offense. We missed a lot of layups. But this is the way we’ve been winning games. Our team just plays for 40 minutes, and I love this team. They’re so inexperienced, but somehow it seems like they’ve been there before.”
Meanwhile, it was a tough loss for Jack Perri and the Blackbirds (4-9, 0-2), who seemed to have plenty go against them, including an ice-cold stretch to start the second half, but still found themselves in prime position to avoid going 0-2 at home to start the NEC campaign, only to see it snatched away in the end, despite 23 points from Gerrell Martin.
Perri called a full timeout with 9:30 remaining and the Blackbirds trailing 59-50, and they responded with a 15-3 run that concluded with a Martin three to give LIU its first lead of the night and got the WRAC rocking, but it wasn’t enough. Marques Townes, another freshman, scored four straight points, fellow freshman Earl Potts hit two key free throws, and the Knights shut it down at the other end to grab the win.
“I was very proud of the five guys that made that run that got us the lead,” Perri said. “We put Gerrell Martin at the point, and Joel (Hernandez) was awesome. He defended that kid (Anderson) in the second half and made some big plays offensively also. That was great, but we had two breakdowns defensively late that led to layups when we didn’t rotate enough. They made plays down the stretch that we didn’t. and really the game ended up being lost in the first half.”
Here are three quick thoughts from the WRAC, where Darian Anderson had 21 of his career-high 26 in the first half:
//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js1. Who is Darian Anderson? – Well, he’s been hot of late, that’s for sure, scoring 23 in a win over Towson last week and then Monday’s performance. He played for Washington, D.C. Catholic powerhouse St. John’s and like many who end up in the NEC, got lost in the shuffle, standing only 6’1” and only the fifth best recruit on his high school team (the others went to George Washington, Georgetown, Miami, and Towson). But he can also fill in at the point and judging by Monday, might be a massive steal for Herenda and FDU, even if he was shooting only 35.8% from the field before the 10-12 performance to beat LIU Brooklyn.
“We always find a way,” Anderson said. “I just knew on defense we were going to make plays to win the game.”
2. LIU Brooklyn’s Icelandic duo is struggling mightily – The game just looked a little too fast for Elvar Fridriksson and Martin Hermannsson, particularly in the first half when the Knights forced them into mistakes and bad shots. In the last three games, all losses, the two have combined to shoot 9-48 from the field (Hermannsson 7-26, Fridriksson 2-22), and while the turnover rates are not outrageous, it gives Perri some tough choices going forward when comes to minutes (and starting jobs). It’s possible that it’s just part of the growing pains any new college players experience and Perri just has to be patient, but it’s much tougher with Iverson Fleming and Joel Hernandez playing fairly well, and you’re 0-2 in league play at home already.
“We have to put two good halves of defense together, especially when we’re having so much trouble scoring” Perri said. “Again, we’re still shooting under 40 percent and if that continues, you’ve got to be great defensively, and we aren’t right now.”
3. FDU is going to be a pain to prepare for – It was Anderson who had 26 Monday, and Mustafaa Jones appears to be the most consistent offensive player for the Knights (7-6, 2-0), but sophomore Matt McDonald is also capable of putting up big numbers, having scored 29 in a win over Princeton last month. They get a little less offensive production from their post players Xavier Harris and Darius Stokes, but both will battle inside. Although they’ve struggled on the boards this season and only rebounded six of their 27 misses, they held LIU Brooklyn to just 9 offensive rebounds on 33 attempts. There are still bound to be hiccups for the Knights. Remember where they were two years ago before Herenda took over? Yeah, they weren’t good.
“Our bar is totally set in a different place,” Herenda said. “But we almost lost to Felician in our exhibition game, and Felician has one Division II win. So we’ve come a long way. It’s a great group. Coaches say that all the time, but this team loves to play basketball. I’m a proud and happy coach tonight.”
Game 51: Fairleigh Dickinson at LIU Brooklyn – “Welcome, to the WRAC.” (In Connery voice) #TMMLegacy A photo posted by Ray Curren (@goldenbally) on