You would expect that, all things equal, a team from the AAC would have the upper hand against a team from the NEC. Then, considering it's a team like Fairleigh Dickinson, well known for being entrenched at the bottom of the NEC, you would think that would be even more true.
Tonight, if you assumed that you would be wrong. Tonight's game was probably what the school and its fans had in mind when it brought in Greg Herenda to coach this team back to respectability and success, where the Knights used strong outings from its seniors - including 21 points and 10 assists from Sidney Sanders, Jr. and another 22 points and eight rebounds from Mustafaa Jones - to hold off a late charge from Rutgers (y'know, that other Knights team) and record an absolutely massive win.
Think about the following. Tonight's win was:
- The first over a Division I opponent since January 12th against St. Francis (PA)
- The first over a non-conference opponent that wasn't Houston Baptist, Longwood, or Saint Peters since they defeated Central Michigan at home on November 21, 2009
- The first win of this caliber (road win against a "big name" team) since defeating Seton Hall on November 18th, 2006
Scooter Gillette paired some quick foul trouble with an early 8-0 run by the Scarlet Knights, and it looked like FDU might not be deep enough to hang with Rutgers all night. However, some excellent three point shooting overall - 11-of-23 as a team, including strong showings from Jones and freshman Matthew McDonald - both kept the Knights in the game and eventually put them ahead to stay.
Extra kudos to McDonald, who scored 14 points on 4-for-8 three point shooting, with all those points coming in the second half - including the three pointer that put FDU back in the lead for good with 26.5 seconds left to play.
I'm not sure how much this changes about what the team will be able to do within the conference. Obviously one good game does not a trend make, but if they can hang this well and shoot from distance this well against a team as good as Rutgers, it bodes well for... oh, hey, look! Their next game against Seton Hall!
Maybe they can notch another strong road win there. This is also positive going forward against teams like Stony Brook, that are maybe a little less intimidating now than they were prior to tonight.