CHARLOTTE, NC – Fayetteville State University received a big game from the big man Will Brown as they defeated Virginia Union University 72-67 Thursday night in the quarterfinal round of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Broncos, the number three seed in the south, improve to 23-7 with the win and will face top seed Johnson C. Smith Friday evening in the first semi-final game at the Spectrum Center. Virginia Union, the number two seed in the north, finishes their season at 18-11.
Brown recorded career-highs with 22 points and 17 rebounds. The senior center also had three blocks and was 12-14 from the free-throw line. Raymon Pratt added 16 points of 6-8 shooting from the field. Jalen Spicer had four assists setting up the Bronco offense.
Raemaad Wright led three Virginia Union players in double figures with 19 points and recorded a double-double with ten rebounds. Jordan Peebles and Terrell Leach added 16 and 14 points respectively. Leach also led the team with four assists.
“I know it was going to be a tough game,” said Broncos Head coach Luke D’Alessio. “They will not quit and come at you every single play and we would have to withstand their pressure the whole game to come out on top. We just had to grind it out and do what we had to do to get a win today.”
The Broncos jumped out to an early 10-5 lead with Isaiah Vinson leading the charge with two early three-point baskets. FSU pushed their lead to nine before Dedric Byrd drilled a three-pointer to close the gap back to six. A 7-0 run by FSU followed, giving the Broncos a double-digit lead at 23-10 with 10:57 remaining. A 9-5 spurt by the Panthers brought the lead back to single digits at 28-19 with 4:10 left in the half. Two free throws from Brown pushed FSU lead back to double digits before the Panthers’ offense ran off nine straight points over the next 3:30 to pull within two, 30-28. Spicer’s basket at the buzzer gave the Broncos a 32-28 lead at the half.
Virginia Union scored the first five points of the second half to take their first lead of the game, 33-32. Fayetteville answered with eight straight points to retake the lead 38-33 at the 16:48 mark. The Broncos lead oscillated between three and six points over the next three minutes before a Keshon Tabb free throw brought the Panthers within two,48-46. The Broncos exploded with nine straight points to expand their lead to double digits,57-46, capped by an alley-oop dunk by Jalen Seegars. The Panthers battled back, scoring six straight with Jordan Peebles capping the run with a steal and a slam dunk, pulling VUU within five 59-54. Free throws by the Panthers closed the gap to three, 63-60 before FSU made their first field goal since the 8:36 mark, getting a slam dunk from Darian Dixon at the 1:24 mark to push the lead back to five. FSU then converted seven of ten free throws in the final minute to seal the 72-67 win.
“I want to tip my hat to Fayetteville State,” said Virginia Union head coach Jay Butler. “They did a great job tonight. His kids played well and he (Coach D’Alessio) does a fantastic job.”
Shooting-wise both teams were evenly matched making 21 field goals and five three-point baskets. The Broncos were a bit stronger on the free-throw line, making 25 of 33 (75.8%) while the Panthers made 20 of 29 (69%). The Broncos also dominated on the glass, grabbing 44 rebounds to VUU’s 29. The Panthers defense forced 17 turnovers which lead to 24 points by the Panthers.
The Broncos will tip-off at 7:00 pm. On Friday at the Spectrum Center, taking on the top seed from the south Johnson C. Smith University. FSU split their season series with both teams winning on the other’s home court.