By Chad Hensley / Special to TSUSPORTS.com
DAYTON, Ohio – The three-point shot was the difference as Fairleigh Dickinson jumped out to an early lead and held off several TSU charges as the 2022-23 season came to an end in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
When a team makes more field goals than their opposition, a win is typically in store but that was not the case in Texas Southern. TSU was 26-for-62 from the field, but was only 1-for-17 from
long range and 8-for-9 from the charity stripe.
FDU (20-15) converted on half of its shots going 23-for-46, but where the Knights won the game was from beyond the arc and at the free throw line.
The Knights shot a combined 11-for-27 from three-point land and 27-for-31 from the free throw line making any sort of comeback in the second half by the Tigers a monumental task to undertake.
Ansley Almonor led the way for FDU going 5-for-8 from long range for his five-made field goals to go along with a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe for a game-high 23 points.
When Joirdon Karl Nicholas’ layup less than a minute into the contest tied the game a 2-2, it appeared that fans in the stands at the University of Dayton Arena were going to be treated to a slugfest, but about 2:30 later would be an early sign of how things were going to go for TSU as the Tigers found themselves in a 14-2 hole. TSU fought back to within 14-9 thanks to an and-1 play from John Walker III and a pair of layups from Davon Barnes.
After finding themselves trailing by nine on multiple occasions in the second half, the fight and resilience that head coach Johnny Jones and staff saw in their team throughout the regular season and into the SWAC tournament would be seen by all in attendance and those who watched on TruTV’s broadcast as the Tigers would scratch and claw their way back to within three at 26-23 with 7:20 left in the first half.
The Knights would then kick offensive output into a different gear and raced out to a commanding 18-point lead with 1:09 left in the first half at 45-27 for a 19-4 run covering 6:11 of clock time.
TSU, in the game, as it had during its entire season did not give up and back down from a fight and neither did the Tigers during the second half after trailing by as many as 19 a little over a minute into the half before cutting the deficit down to 10 with 9:46 left in the game at 54-44.
The onslaught of threes by FDU at that point in the game overshadowed that it wasn’t until 4:54 left in the second half that TSU finally hit its first trey of the game to make it 71-53. FDU continued its barrage of three pointers even late into the game when Almonor buried a pair on consecutive possessions to give the Knights a 25-point lead at 80-55 with 3:22 before the final buzzer.
FSU would see all five starters reach double digits in scoring and only receive six points off the bench while Walker III led TSU in scoring with 22 points to go along with four rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Nicholas was the lone other Tiger in double figures with 10 points and he narrowly missed a double-double as he scooped up a team-high eight rebounds on the night as well.