For both the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights and Prairie View A&M Panthers, tonight’s game was important for the same reason: It was a chance to win an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in the history of either program.
From the outset, it appeared as if the Panthers were not their usual selves on offense, which— in this case — was a good thing. Typically one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country, it was a radical paradigm shift that propelled Prairie View to a large early lead over the Knights.
Indeed, it was an 8-12 mark from the perimeter that gave Prairie View a 41-34 halftime lead, electrifying a team that is absolutely not accustomed to possessing such hot hands from outside the arc.
However, it was Prairie View’s characteristic defensive prowess that lived up to expectations on the big stage. They’re known for pestering opponents, swarming them in droves before forcing beaucoup turnovers. In the first half alone, the Panthers forced the Knights into committing 10.
While those turnover woes continued into the second half for the Knights, Fairleigh Dickinson utilized its advantage on the boards to create second-chance opportunities and cut into a Prairie View lead that totaled as many as 13 points.
Thanks to the effort of Jahlil Jenkins, who showed off his ability to blow past every defender the Panthers threw at him, the Knights were able to put a major scare into Prairie View, ultimately retaking the lead with just under seven minutes to play.
At that point, things tightened up before FDU harnessed a 10-0 run to take seven-point lead. That run really allowed viewers to watch Jahlil Jenkins take over, as he did everything from nail floaters to knock down step-back threes.
Despite a flurry of late threes and a converted four-point play by Gary Blackston, the Panthers simply were not able to overcome the deficit, falling 82-76.
For FDU, this season’s journey will continue for at least one more game, as it will now make the journey from Dayton to Salt Lake City, Utah, for a meeting on Thursday with the top-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Hopefully for them, Jahlil Jenkins and Darnell Edge are able to combine for 55 points once more.