RECAP: Fairleigh Dickinson Upends Wagner to Grab Northeast Title, NCAA Tournament Spot

Sophomores Earl Potts, Jr (5) and Darian Anderson combined for 55 points as Fairleigh Dickinson knocked off Wagner, 87-79, for the NEC title and a spot in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. (Source: USA Today Sports)
Sophomores Earl Potts, Jr (5) and Darian Anderson combined for 55 points as Fairleigh Dickinson knocked off Wagner, 87-79, for the NEC title and a spot in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. (Source: USA Today Sports)

Number one seeds in the conference tournaments haven’t fared so well in 2015-16. The level of parity in the conferences has been on full display, which makes the game that much more exciting.

On Tuesday night, the Wagner Seahawks were out to put an end to the struggles of the top seeds. Wagner finished atop the Northeast Conference standings in the regular season, and earned the right to host the conference title game in Staten Island, NY.

Their opponent on Tuesday, the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights, had their sights set on securing the school’s fifth trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Knights were a top contender in the conference all season long, and were looking to extend their four-game winning streak with a win over the high-powered Seahawks.

Wagner and Fairleigh Dickinson split the season series at a game each, and both were looking for one more win to seal the deal and move onto the field of 68.

The Knights weren’t intimidated by playing on the road, and used a strong second half comeback to seize control of the game and come away with the conference championship.

Fairleigh Dickinson took down Wagner, 87-79, to win the Northeast Conference title and punch their ticket into the NCAA Tournament.

After falling behind by two after the opening half, the duo of Earl Potts, Jr. and Darian Anderson took over for the Knights in the final 20 minutes.

Potts scored 9 straight points for the Knights just over five minutes into the second half, eventually putting them ahead for good with a three pointer at the 14:21 mark. Wagner would continue to fight, but the momentum that Fairleigh Dickinson had built towards the end of the first half was too much for the Seahawks to overcome.

Wagner would do their best to cut into the lead, but the Knights always seemed to have a response of their own on offense. The visitors stretched their lead to as many as 13 points, at 73-60, on a layup from Anderson with under 4 to play.

The Seahawks reeled off a quick 7-0 run, capped off by a Michael Carey layup, to cut the deficit to 6 and give themselves a chance at a comeback win. However, the Knights wouldn’t be denied of reaching the pinnacle that is the NCAA Tournament.

Timely free throw shooting down the stretch sealed the deal, and Fairleigh Dickinson is going dancing for the fifth time in school history. The Knights knocked off Wagner, 87-79, for the Northeast Conference title.


Game Leaders

The guard duo of Earl Potts, Jr. and Darian Anderson led the way for the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights. Anderson scored a game-high 28 points, while Potts added 27 points of his own in the win.

Marques Townes chipped in with 8 points and 6 rebounds.

A balanced scoring attack wasn’t enough to lead the Wagner Seahawks to the Big Dance. Corey Henson scored a team-high 24 points, while Michael Carey recorded a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Mike Aaman just missed a double-double of his own, adding 11 points and 8 rebounds in the loss.


Looking Ahead

With the win, the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (18-14, 11-7) are off to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in school history. They are likely on their way to Dayton for the First Four, but with the way they are playing as of late, they could easily come way with a win and advance to the Round of 64.

Despite the loss, the Wagner Seahawks (22-10, 13-5) are destined for post-season play. As the regular season champions, the Seahawks are invited to the 2016 NIT.

– T.B.

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