Strong Defense Leads Sacred Heart to 67-50 Win at Fairleigh Dickinson

HACKENSACK, NJ  (January 6, 2011) – The Sacred Heart Pioneers held Fairleigh Dickinson to 30.6% (15-49) shooting and forced 21 turnovers to earn their first Northeast Conference victory on the year, 67-50, Thursday night in Hackensack, NJ.  The Pioneers doubled up the Knights in the second half, outscoring FDU 42-22, and were led by an 18 point effort from senior Jerrell Thompson (Plainfield, NJ) as they improve to 6-8 and 1-2 in the NEC.

The Pioneers (6-8, 1-2 NEC) blew open a 43-43 game with 6:17 left, outscoring the Knights 24-7 to close it out.  SHU held the Knights to just one-of-16 shooting behind the three-point line and turned FDU's 21 miscues into 21 points at the other end.  SHU took 22 of their 26 trips to the free throw line in the second half, making 18.  They finished the game 20-26 overall.

"Defense was important tonight, especially in the first half where we had trouble at getting any kind of flow offensively," commented head coach Dave Bike.  "Another number that's helping us is at the foul line, where we worked it to our advantage in the second half."

"We hung in there and the defense was there all game," stated Bike.  "We had some patience, I didn't think we gambled too often and made some big shots when we had to."

Just 3:21 into the game the Pioneers had to send their top scorer, r-sophomore Shane Gibson (Killingly, CT), to the bench with a pair of fouls.  The Knights used their size advantage underneath with John Galvin and Kamil Svrdlik helping fuel a 10-0 run to put FDU up 19-10.  The Pioneers went nearly five minutes without a field goal before a Thompson jumper at 7:40 ended the drought.

The Knights extended their run to 14-2 and took their biggest lead, 23-12, on a Svrdlik lay-in with 6:08 left in the half.    The Pioneers chipped away and closed the half strong to trail by just five at the break.  Thompson buried a three and freshman Chris Evans (Stamford, CT) converted on a pair of fast break lay-ups as SHU outscored FDU 11-5 to close the half down 28-23.

Sacred Heart took their first lead in the second half, 32-31, at 14:15 on  Thompson break-away lay-in but Fairleigh Dickinson jumped right back in front and built a 43-38 lead at the 7:31 mark.  From there it was all Sacred Heart as the Pioneers dominated the final seven minutes outscoring the Knights 29-7.  Freshman Evan Kelley (Norwalk, CT) started the rally with a three from the wing. 

Thompson and Gibson delivered what would prove to be the defining shots of the rally that helped put the game out of reach.  With SHU up five, 5-45, Thompson drilled a jumper with the shot clock winding down and then Gibson did one better on the Pioneers next possession.  SHU corralled a loosed ball with two seconds on the shot clock and used a timeout.  The Pioneers went to Gibson who threw a quick head fake and then drilled a three with a defender draped all over him for what proved to be the dagger, putting SHU up 55-46 with 1:50 left.  The Pioneers hit 10-of-12 at the free throw line in the closing minutes to ice away their first conference win on the year. 

Thompson added five rebounds with a pair of steals to his game-high 18 points.  Kelley finished with 14 points, five rebounds and four steals and made seven-of-eight at the charity stripe.  Evans came off the bench for 13 points with four assist and three rebounds. 

FDU was led by 13 points from Svrdlik.  SHU held Mike Scott, the NEC's leading scorer coming in to the game, to just nine points with one assist and six turnovers.

The Pioneers are back on the road Saturday night traveling to Monmouth University for a 7 pm tip.

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