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Balanced Scoring Carries Men’s Hoops To A 73-65 NEC Win Over Fairleigh Dickinson

 

(Cooper, Wagner)

Staten Island, NY – Senior guard JoJo Cooper (Concord) matched his career-high with 20 points to lead four players in double figures as the Wagner men's basketball team moved its home record to 8-0 in recording a 73-65 Northeast Conference (NEC) victory over Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday afternoon at the Spiro Sports Center.  
In winning their second straight game, coming off of Thursday night's 60-63 home win over Sacred Heart, the Seahawks improve to 10-5 on the season and 3-1 in NEC play. In defeat, the Knights saw their season record fall to 5-10 overall and are now 2-1 in league.

Wagner's eighth straight victory at home marks the best start since the 2001-02 season in which Wagner went 10-1 to start a home slate as that team picked up victories over Iona (12/4/01), Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) (12/22/01), Saint Francis U (1/3/02), Robert Morris (1/5/02), Quinnipiac (1/12/02), Monmouth (1/16/02), Sacred Heart (1/30/02), Mount St. Mary's (2/2/02), LIU Brooklyn (2/9/02), St. Francis Brooklyn (2/11/02) before falling to Central Connecticut (83-69) on February 15. That team was coached by Dereck Whittenburg and finished the season at 19-10; 15-5 NEC advanced to the First Round of the NIT against Richmond (lost 74-67 in overtime).

Sophomore guard Blake Francis added 13 points, highlighted by 3-of-6 accuracy from three-point range, while redshirt junior forward AJ Sumbry and freshman forward Nigel Jackson added 12 and 11 points respectively. Sumbry was a major force in the low post throughout, holding the upper hand in his battle with FDU big man Mike Holloway, Jr. In addition to his 12-point effort, with 10 of those coming from the free throw line where he went 10-of-16, the 6-8 Sumbry grabbed eight rebounds while coming up with a game-high four blocked shots.

After falling behind by a 37-34 count at halftime, Wagner opened the second half on an 18-5 tear, which contained an 11-0 run, in building its first double-digit lead of the game, a 52-42 lead with 14:13 left to play. Jackson was the key contributor in the Seahawk surge, scoring eight points in the decisive 11-0 run that carried Wagner from a 42-41 deficit into that 52-42 lead.

The Green & White continued to be in control after Sumbry converted 1-of-2 free throws with 3:55 remaining as Wagner regained its 10-point advantage at 65-55 with just 3:55 left. FDU made things interesting when Darian Anderson sank a three-pointer at the 3:37 mark which made it a 65-58 game and jump-started a 7-1 run.

With 1:49 left, Noah Morgan knocked down a pair of free throws to draw the Knights to within five at 65-60. After Sumbry again split a pair of free throws with 1:38 to go, making it 66-60, FDU countered with an Anderson layup at the 1:24 mark to make it a 66-62 game.

Wagner then sealed the win by making six consecutive clutch free throws in the game's final 48 seconds, with redshirt junior guard Romone Saunders (8 points), junior guard Devin Liggeons (5 points) and Cooper each going 2-of-2 down the stretch.

Anderson led all scorers with 21 points for the Knights while Darnell Edge also reached double figures for FDU, finishing with 18 on the afternoon.

Jackson opened the scoring for the Seahawks with his first of two three-pointers, a left-wing bucker off a feed from Cooper, to give Wagner the early 3-0 lead. FDU took a slim lead at 4-3 after Holloway Jr., made back-to-back buckets for the visitors.

The Seahawks then erupted on a 15-6 run over a five-minute stretch in building an 18-10 advantage as the Green & White converted on 6-of-8 from the field and 3-of-4 from the outside during the spurt. Cooper was the catalyst, going 3-of-3 from three-point range while Wagner held FDU to just two made field goals over this stretch.

The Knights responded with a 21-7 run of their own in taking a 31-25 lead thanks to the visitors making 9-of-13 shots from the floor and 3-of-5 from the field. Wagner was held to just 2-of-7 and committed four turnovers during the FDU run.

Wagner closed out the stanza scoring nine of the final 15 points as the Seahawks entered the break facing a three-point deficit at 37-34. The Seahawks were led by Cooper, who poured 17 points in the opening half on an efficient 5-of-8 shooting from the field and a perfect 3-of-3 from beyond the arc.

FDU, which shot 51.7 percent from the field in the first half, just 27.3 percent from deep, got ten points from Edge in the opening frame while holding a slim 17-16 advantage on the boards. 

For the game, FDU narrowly outshot Wagner, 41%-40%, held a 20-16 edge in points in the paint, and led in fast break points, 10-9. Most of the remaining statistical categories were controlled by the Seahawks as the Green & White held the advantage in rebounds (39-29), points off turnovers (22-14), and second-chance points, while bench scoring was tied at 9-9. There were two ties in the game and six lead changes.

Today's contest was the 108th all-time meeting between these schools, with Wagner now holding 55-52 edge in the head-to-head series. Wagner has won four of the last six matchups against the Knights, which including a win in the 2017 Northeast Conference (NEC), when the Seahawks earned a 72-70 quarterfinal win over the Knights.

For Wagner's 33-year old, sixth-year head coach Bashir Mason, who is currently the sixth-youngest head coach in Division I, he now moves to 97-74 in his tenure on Grymes Hill as his march towards the century mark continues.

Wagner now embarks on a two-game road trip, beginning on Thursday, January 11 when the Seahawks head up to Smithfield, RI to tangle with the Bryant University Bulldogs. Tipoff from the Chace Athletic Center is slated for 7:00 p.m. Following the tilt at Bryant, the Green & White make the short trek to LIU Brooklyn on Saturday, January 13 when the Seahawks meet the Blackbirds in a 4:30 p.m. tip at the Steinberg Wellness Center.


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