SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - Parking spaces were at a premium, a commodity to be cherished on this evening.
It was Friday, so the issue was not night classes. It was the opening of the 2016-17 seasons. Workouts, practices and exhibitions aside; tonight, it tipped off for real, to go officially in the books.
The meeting was between two New Jersey schools that happened to be champions of their respective conferences: Fairleigh Dickinson, of the Northeast Conference, made the roughly 25-mile trip here to face Big East titlist Seton Hall at historic Walsh Gymnasium.
To little surprise, FDU proved to be a resilient test. Constantly battling back from deficits to make it a one or two-possession game, the Knights refused to fold. In the final analysis, the deceptive 91-70 score in Seton Hall’s favor was a case of the visitors just getting worn down from physical play and having to make successive comebacks.
For Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard, the opener was a challenge from an in-state program determined to bring their ‘A’ game. Willard got a win and found out several good things about his club. Openers at home should provide the former, if you get the latter, consider it a bonus.
For Greg Herenda’s Knights, a gut check of their own, facing a Big East champion on their home floor. This first contest saw the Knights on the short end while providing a prep for the rigors of conference battles. No one enjoys losing, but in this loss, Herenda saw positives to build on as well as others to work on.
In the end, a packed crowd was treated to a game with both teams giving the extra effort. The season is but one day old. Already, both coaches were able to exit Walsh Gymnasium with a good point of reference regarding their respective teams.
All quiet outside a frenzied Walsh Gymnasium:
Ever sharp on the whistle, veteran Ed Corbett served as lead referee:
A winner earlier in the day with his women's program, Tony Bozzella takes in the action alongside his family:
The obligatory pregame press room dining, provided by a local pizzeria:
Perimeter play heating up as FDU's Stephan Jiggetts works against Seton Hall point guard Madison Jones:
Former Fordham and Hofstra head coach Tom Pecora, analyzing the action in the broadcast booth:
Kevin Willard addresses the media after the game: