If you are one of those folks who got goosebumps this week watching a trailer for “Game of Thrones” or “Toy Story 4” or “The Next Marvel Movie Where Everyone Dies – for a While,” then Tuesday night was for you.
You were able to watch a sneak preview of Gonzaga’s first-round NCAA Tournament opponent, as Fairleigh Dickinson rallied from 13 points down to defeat Prairie View A&M 82-76. The win moved the Knights into Thursday afternoon’s matchup with the Bulldogs in Salt Lake City.
Here are a few observations from the play-in game in Dayton, Ohio:
• The Knights had to overcome their mistakes to move on, and they were able to do it thanks to the play of guards Jahlil Jenkins and Darnell Edge, the two players who have powered them all season.
Fairleigh Dickinson (21-13) had 17 turnovers, including eight in the first 10 minutes and another handful coming out of halftime. That’s how Prairie View A&M (22-13) built what looked to be an insurmountable lead.
But the NCAA Tournament is so often dominated by guard play, and this one was.
Jenkins, who had a disagreement with head coach Greg Herenda midway through the second half, was the engine, keying the comeback by attacking the Panthers’ pressure out front and finishing at the rim. He scored 22 points while only hitting one 3-pointer in five attempts. But he only had three turnovers and six assists.
His running mate, senior Darnell Edge, scored a career-high 33 points, keeping Fairleigh Dickinson in the game as Prairie View A&M was threatening to head to Salt Lake City early. He and Jenkins also were the key players during FDU’s 10-0 second-half run that built enough of a lead to move on.
The duo should put some pressure on the No.-1 seeded Bulldogs’ switching perimeter defense. They will have to keep Jenkins out of the key and not allow Edge to get many open looks.
• As good as the Fairleigh Dickinson’s guards were, the Knights’ bigs were pretty much the opposite for most of the game.
The Panthers collapsed on the ball inside and the two 6-foot-8 posts, Mike Holloway and Kaleb Bishop, had trouble handling the pressure.
Holloway was the instigator of much of the ball-control problems, turning the ball over five times, many of them early. But in the second half the Knights went away from a post-up game and had Jenkins attack.
When he or Edge or anyone else missed, Holloway and Bishop attacked the offensive glass. It is nearly impossible to double an offensive rebounder. The duo, who combined for 10 offensive rebounds, took advantage to score a much-needed 20 points.
Holloway finished with 14 rebounds and Bishop had 11.
Keeping teams off the offensive glass has been a problem at times this season for Gonzaga. Whether the 16th-seeded Knights can take advantage on short rest would seem to be a tough ask.
• Fairleigh Dickinson’s defense was so penetration-centric early on, the Jaguars had plenty of opportunities for open 3-pointers.
That seemed a good strategy, considering they shoot just 31 percent from there. But they hit 10 of their first 14 and that was the main reason why they led.
They returned to earth after that, however, hitting five of their final 15 long-range shots as FDU rallied.
How the Knights will handle the Zags’ combination of inside strength with All-American Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke paired with their outside shooting, should be a key element in Thursday’s matchup.
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