Photo Courtesy of Fairleigh Dickinson - Larry Levanti

Fairleigh Dickinson wins last-second thriller against NJIT

After 28 days away from home, Fairleigh Dickinson's men's basketball team returned to the friendly confines of Stratis Arena to face in-state rival NJIT. The Knights, winners of two straight, were looking to continue their momentum after Friday night's road overtime win against Columbia.

Sean Moore's putback with 1.8 seconds left gave FDU a gutsy 73-71 win over NJIT in the Knights' return home on Sunday afternoon.

FDU started slowly as NJIT jumped out to a quick lead after two quick baskets. As was the case against Saint Peter's in November, the Knights began to force their way inside and draw fouls which helped them jump out to a 12-8 lead at the 13:23 mark of the first half.

NJIT's defense early in the half was smothering, holding Fairleigh Dickinson to just 3-of-12 shooting through the game's first eight minutes. However, FDU was successful on the offensive boards picking up three offensive rebounds and five second-chance points. Back-to-back threes from Trevon Blassingame and Grant Singleton awakened the crowd and gave the Knights an 18-14 lead with 9:32 left in the first half.

The Knights started putting on a full-court press to push NJIT's tempo and were burned on that strategy after a Justin Anderson trey. Even with that letdown on defense, FDU started to find their shot offensively as Demetre Roberts hit a three-pointer to extend the Knights' lead to 26-18. FDU benefited from Souleymane Diakite picking up his second foul at the 8:25 mark of the half, forcing NJIT head coach Brian Kennedy to sit his big man.

After Kjell de Graaf hit a three-pointer to pull the Highlanders to within one, Ansley Almonor hit a three of his own to put FDU back in front by four. The Knights went scoreless for the remaining three minutes of the half as NJIT scored the final eight points of the half as NJIT went into the half leading 33-31. Fairleigh Dickinson went 5-for-12 from three (42 percent) but 3-for-17 on two-point attempts in the opening 20 minutes of play.

The second half was fast and furious, as there were blocked shots, missed layups and ultra-physical play from both squads. FDU turned the ball over twice during the opening minutes of the half as NJIT was able to retain the lead, but they were struggling to shoot as FDU's full-court press was forcing them into quick shots which were not going down.

Jo'el Emanuel's slam dunk-and-one brought the crowd at Stratis Arena to its feet as the Knights tied the game at 40. NJIT retook the lead and led 47-43 at the under-14:00 media timeout.

Grant Singleton's three-pointer pulled FDU to within at 49-46, but NJIT scored on a putback dunk and a reverse alley-oop layup from Mekhi Gray to stretch the Highlander lead to seven points. FDU responded with an 8-2 run as Roberts and Joe Munden Jr. scored all eight points to pull the Knights to within one point at 57-56. Roberts scored 10 of his 15 points in the half in the second half after struggling early.

After the Highlanders went up by three, Almonor tied the game at 59 after a three-point play. A 15-8 run over 4:51 gave FDU the lead, and an Almonor offensive rebound and putback with 1:08 remaining in regulation gave the Knights a four-point lead. Two free throws  and a Raheim Sullivan layup for NJIT tied the game at 71 with 28 seconds left.

This set the stage for the dramatic ending as Roberts held the ball as the clock ticked down. His initial shot was missed, but Sean Moore skied in and tipped in the game-winning shot as FDU gutted out a two-point win and gave FDU head coach Tobin Anderson his 400th career win as a collegiate head coach.

"The only word is relieved," said Anderson when asked about his feelings on the last-second win. "It was not pretty but that's how it has been for us so far. We did enough to win so we will take it."

What's Next For Fairleigh Dickinson

The Knights travel to Virginia to face Atlantic 10 Conference member Richmond on Tuesday at 7 p.m.