DAYTON, Ohio — Ansley Almonor had 23 points and Joe Munden Jr. added 17 to lead five scorers in double figures as No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson cruised to an 84-61 win over No. 16 Texas Southern on Wednesday night in a First Four contest at University of Dayton Arena.
Fairleigh Dickinson (20-15), making its seventh appearance in the tournament, advances to play East Region top seed Purdue on Friday in a first-round game in Columbus, Ohio.
Wednesday’s win was just the school’s second in eight tries overall in NCAA play.
“We played really well, obviously,” FDU head coach Tobin Anderson said. “I’m not surprised. We’ve had a really good year. I couldn’t be more proud, more excited for them, and to come on this stage, this environment in a big game and play really well. We played really well.”
John Walker III had 22 points and Karl Nicholas added 10 for the Tigers (14-21), who could not repeat last year’s magic on the same court. In the 2022 First Four, Texas Southern rallied past Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in Dayton to advance to the first round, where they were beaten by No. 1 seed and eventual national champion Kansas.
Texas Southern, making its fourth straight First Four appearance, lost for the first time in four tries.
Long-range shooting was a major difference in the game. FDU finished 11-for-27 from beyond the arc while Texas Southern missed their first 13 threes and ended 1-for-17.
“We guarded,” Anderson said. “We have been a great defensive team all year long. We played really good defense. Our press got us the lead. Our press got us going. Our halfcourt defense was excellent. We shared the ball. We played unselfish. A lot of guys made extra passes and did the right thing.”
Fairleigh Dickinson started off hot from the field, hitting on five of its first seven shots from the field, including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. Munden’s 3-pointer capped FDU’s 12-0 run for a 14-2 lead just 3 1/2 minutes into the game.
“Fairleigh Dickinson came out did an outstanding job of getting off to a great start and knocking down shots, making plays going into (their) halftime lead,” Texas Southern head coach Johnny Jones said.
Texas Southern recovered to score the next seven points. The Tigers eventually pulled within three, 26-23, but a pair of Almonor threes on consecutive possessions sparked a 10-0 FDU run for a 36-23 lead.
Grant Singleton’s long-range three extended FDU’s lead to 45-27 in the final minute before the Knights settled for a 45-29 halftime lead. While Texas Southern enjoyed a 26-10 advantage in the paint, FDU did its damage from the perimeter, draining 7 of 15 from beyond the arc. The Tigers missed all eight of their triple attempts.
Almonor connected on a 3-pointer just over a minute into the second half for a 19-point FDU advantage before TSU cut the lead to 10 points, 54-44, with 10 minutes remaining. But six straight free throws sparked a 13-2 run to put the Knights up 67-46.
“I thought we did a good job of continuing to battle, came out in the second half, made a bit of a run, and they did a great job of settling in and making the necessary plays,” Jones said. “But our guys got after it and at least gave us a chance.”
–Mike Petraglia, Field Level Media
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