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Fairleigh Dickinson, Belmont capture first-ever NCAA tournament wins


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Dayton, OH — Behind 33 points (9/14 from the field) from Darnell Edge and a stellar second half play from Jahlil Jenkins (22 points, 6 asts), Fairleigh Dickinson (21-13) defeated Prairie View A&M (22-13), 82-76.

Prairie View held a 13-point lead in the first half in large part due to their uncharacteristically hot shooting (8/12 from three). Additionally, Fairleigh Dickinson’s inability to take care of the basketball as the team — nine turnovers in the first half — helped the Panthers secure the lead.

Yet, Fairleigh was able to cut to the lead to seven going into half, 41-34.

Both teams played each other evenly in the second half until Jenkins really got going. Nadi Beciri then gave the Knights a 61-59 lead with 6:47 remaining in the game, their first lead since 17:27 left in the first half. Prairie View then regained the lead and it looked as though they would take advantage of Fairleigh Dickinson leaving points at the line.

However, the Knights tightened up on defense and Prairie View got cold from distance, allowing Fairleigh Dickinson to grow their lead. When the game looked over, Gary Blackston, who finished the contest with a team-high 26 points, converted a four point play and hit a three on the next possession to cut the lead and keep the ending exciting.

In spite of the near late game heroics by Blackston of Prairie View A&M, Fairleigh Dickinson pulled out the win by closing each half incredibly strong. The Knights now advance to the first round of the NCAA Tournament against the No. 1 seed Gonzaga, in Salt Lake City on Thursday.

Game 2: Belmont Bruins vs Temple Owls

Cinderella hopeful, the Belmont Bruins beat the Temple Owls 81-70 in a thrilling game. Belmont’s leading scorer and future NBA player Dylan Windlar, had a quiet game (five points, 14 rebounds, three steals) but the return of freshman sensation Nick Muszynski was key in the Bruins’ victory.

Muszynski finished with 16 points, four rebounds, three assits and two blocks. Belmont also relied on Kevin McClain who had a dominant performance with 29 points, four rebounds and two assists.

Belmont, Kevin McClain
Belmont’s Kevin McClain. Getty

Entering tonight’s game, Belmont was 0-7 in the NCAA tournament. After the win, head coach Rick Byrd addressed what it means fo finally collect a win the in the tournament for not just Belmont, but himself, too.

“It means much to the school and the program and these kids. It’ll mean something to me someday, but not now.”

With the win, the Bruins not only capture its first NCAA tournament win, yet also will now advance to play Maryland in the first round.

Like most basketball games, the contest had a lot of runs by both Belmont and Temple as the two teams battled back and forth taking the lead. The Bruins held the slight lead at intermission, 37-31, but Temple used a 19-4 run over 5:55 to erase an 11-point deficit and take a 50-46 lead in the second half.

After a while, Belmont’s defense tightened up and the Owls struggled to score. With just over 10 mintues left to play, Temple held the lead 52-51. The Bruins went on a scoring run and never looked back, seizing the opportunity to win its first-ever NCAA Tournament contest.

“I mean I would just say it’s a testament, not only to our guys, but to all of the guys before us,” shared Muszynski on Belmont’s historic win. “I mean, we’ve got so many great teams that have kind of set the path before us to get to this place, I mean in a large sentiment it wouldn’t have happened were it not for the guys before us.

The Owls’ Shizz Alston led his team with 21 points, however, it wasn’t enough as Temple fell, 81-70.

With the win, head coach Byrd did commend his players on playing in the tournament environment and advancing to the regular field.

“I didn’t think many times we played well, or knew what we were in offensively, but they found a way to win. And you never play perfect, and I think they’ve got some toughness about them

The No. 11 Belmont Bruins will look to take its toughness to Thursday night’s game against No. 6 Maryland, in the round of 62.

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