The Fairleigh Dickinson fans did their best to negate the Hartford home-court advantage, and for 10 minutes it seemed to be working. But the Hawks staged a strong comeback to defend their house and earn a 74-60 win over the visiting Knights.
FDU roared out to an 8-0 lead before Oren Faulk stopped the bleeding with a layup. There was still a slow leak though as the Knights managed to hold the Hawks under 10 points until midway through the opening 20 minutes, leaving Hartford fans shaking their heads.
Where was the team from just two nights before? This version couldn't stand up to the solid and intense defense from the Knights. FDU attacked the Hartford big men, making it almost impossible for them to score, and leading to 18 turnovers in the opening half.
"We came out against a very good team and executed our offense and press, and we were in the driver's seat," said Knights coach Greg Herenda. "But give Hartford credit - they made crucial shots and kept their composure."
Three of Fairleigh Dickinson's tops scorers hit double digits: Sidney Sanders Jr. (13 points), Mustafaa Jones (11 points) and Mathias Seilund (11 points). Jones, now one of FDU's top scorers, once wore the red and white of Hartford, transferring after his freshman year.
"They were the more aggressive team," Hartford coach John Gallagher said. "They brought great poise. They played with more passion in the first eight minutes. I credit my guys. We kind of regrouped and we didn't stay in that funk long enough to lose it."
Tonight was a night for the "little" guys to shine. Both 6 feet tall, Evan Cooper and Wes Cole stepped it up to total 29 of Hartford's 74 points. FDU's focus on the bigger guys left the Hawk guards open for 3-point shots. Cole was 3-for-6 and Cooper was 4-for-5. Even 6-1 freshman, Justin Graham joined in, going 2 of 2 from long range.
"The shots were there on the perimeter," Cole said. "The first half, they were collapsing on Mark every time and opportunities were there to make shots. We were shot-ready, they were making great passes and we just found a rhythm."
The Hawks only have a few days to relax and gear up before their toughest game of the year against No. 3 Louisville. Hopefully everyone will be "shot-ready" by Tuesday.