Monmouth Edges Fairleigh Dickinson, 49-48

Hawks will make second NCAA trip in three years


March 8, 2006

HACKENSACK, N.J. (AP) - Chris Kenny drove the length of the court after a missed free throw to score with 2 seconds to play Wednesday night, lifting Monmouth over Fairleigh Dickinson 49-48 in the Northeast Conference tournament championship game.

Bernell Murray missed the front end of a one-and-one with 8.3 seconds left after Monmouth's Dejan Delic made two free throws to bring the Hawks to 48-47 with 8.5 seconds remaining.

Marques Alston rebounded the miss and got the ball to Kenny, who drove and scored. FDU was unable to get a shot off at the buzzer.

Alston scored 14 points to lead Monmouth (18-14), which became the first NEC team seeded lower than one or two to win the conference tournament since 1999. Andrea Crosariol led top-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson (20-11) with 12 points.

Monmouth reached the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years. In 2004, the Hawks lost to Mississippi State 85-52 in the first round. Fairleigh Dickinson was trying to return to the tournament for the second year in a row.

No NEC team has won a first-round NCAA tournament game in 23 tries. Robert Morris won a play-in game to earn a No. 12 seed in 1983 when the tournament featured a 48-team field.

Michael Peeples scored on a drive with 19 seconds left to give Fairleigh Dickinson a 48-45 lead, then fouled Delic with 8.5 seconds left. Delic, who had missed four of five attempts in the game to that point, made both to make the score 48-47.

Neither team led by more than three points in the game's final 15 minutes. Fairleigh Dickinson hung in despite one field goal in the first 10 minutes of the second half as Monmouth made up a nine-point deficit and led 39-36 with 12 minutes left.

Fairleigh Dickinson retook the lead on Crosariol's tap-in with 9:35 left and clung to a 46-43 lead with 4 minutes remaining. Alston drove the lane and scored to pull Monmouth within a point with 3:25 left.

Monmouth trailed 33-24 at halftime but erased that deficit in the first five minutes as 7-foot-2, 320-pound center John Bunch began to assert himself with two blocks and a score in the lane against the 7-foot Crosariol.

Alston brought the visitors to their feet with 14:58 left when he faked out Gordon Klaiber on the wing and dunked over Crosariol and completed the three-point play to tie the score at 36. Bunch then gave the Hawks their first lead since early in the game when he dunked off a feed from Tyler Azzarelli with 13:07 left.

Fairleigh Dickinson led by as many as 12 midway through the first half. The Hawks stayed in the game by making five of seven 3-pointers in the half, but were 4-for-24 on two-point attempts.

The shot clock above one basket malfunctioned late in the first half, forcing officials to put a clock on the floor near FDU's basket for the second half.

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