Fayetteville 132, Roanoke 120
Patriots Frazzle the Dazzle
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C., March 3 – The Fayetteville Patriots got another big night from veteran NBA player Mateen Cleaves and a solid debut from a pair of newly-arrived Detroit Pistons to beat the Roanoke Dazzle, 132-120, in D-League action in Fayetteville on Friday.
Fayetteville improves to 7-24. The Dazzle drop to 18-18.
“In any game, in those last four minutes you have to execute and get stops,” said Patriots coach Mike Brown. “In a lot of games, we’ve been able to get the stops, but then we turn the ball right back over. We didn’t execute. Tonight we did both. These guys being able to stop them when it counted, and then run the offense and hit free throws. That was the difference.”
The teams kept each other in check, trading the lead but with neither able to stretch it past the double-digit mark. Roanoke was up by eight after the first period after Anthony Grundy netted 11, but Fayetteville took a 61-57 lead into the break due to the hot shooting of Cleaves and Alex Acker. Cleaves had 16 at the half, and Acker came off the bench to score 13 in the second quarter.
“I figured it was a 50/50 chance that I would get to play a little,” said Acker, who flew into Fayetteville on Friday after being assigned there by the Pistons on Thursday. “I wasn’t even sure they would have a jersey ready. But as soon as I got here, coach said ‘Are you ready to play?’ Then he showed me my jersey. I never thought I would get in the game that early, though.”
The Patriots led by as many as nine in the fourth, but Roanoke charged back and reclaimed the lead on the hot hand of league scoring leader Will Bynum, who hit two 3-pointers and seven free throws in a five-minute span. Then, Acker and his Pistons teammate Amir Johnson who was assigned to Fayetteville on Monday, dominated the final three minutes. Acker scored five, and Johnson hit five free throws to go along with a pair of steals, to shut down the Roanoke run.
“I had the chance to work with Amir a little, and he picks things up quickly,” Brown said. “And Alex just got here two hours before the game, we went over some plays in my office, and then we threw him to the sharks. But these guys have played this game since they were little kids. They should know what to do.”
Cleaves led the Patriots with 34 points and 12 assists. Acker finished with 28, while Johnson had 16.
Grundy led all scorers with 39 and Bynum added 28.
“I just wanted to have fun and play my game,” Johnson said. “It felt good to be out there. It’s been a long time since I played in a game like that, but I’m getting my wind back. I’m enjoying this. This is a nice town, the people are nice and I like the team. It just feels real good.”
The Patriots are back in action in Florida on Sunday. They return to the Crown on Thursday against the Flame.