Men’s basketball back on track

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The winter break for Fairfield men’s basketball was a bit of a roller coaster ride. While the break spanned from Dec. 21 to Jan. 21, the Stags came back with a record of 3-5.

The beginning of the break was good to the Stags as they had three consecutive victories at Saint Joseph’s. 60-57, Old Dominion, 55-54, and Canisius College. 66-45.

The three victories were followed by five consecutive MAAC losses at Niagara University, 71-67, Loyola University, 63-58 OT, Niagara University, 67-64, Iona College, 84-73, and Loyola University, 65-60.

However, once classes resumed and everyone was back on campus, the Stags found their rhythm again and are on a two game winning streak at the expense of Marist College, 71-37, and Saint Peter’s University, 61-54.

There are nine games left in the season for the Stags, and every game is going to matter for them in their MAAC standings. They currently are sitting in sixth place in the league, boasting a 4-6 MAAC record and a 12-10 overall record.

While the record for the team over break might not have been the desired result, they did see some big performances from some unexpected sources.

In their 71-37 win over Marist on January 24th, Josip Mikulic ’16 contributed a career-high tying 16 points for the Stags. He went 4-7 from behind the arc.

In the same game, Steve Johnston ’15, added an impressive nine points to the total, including three three-point shots. It was also his highest number of minutes played for the Stags, with 23 minutes.

Freshman Amadou Sidibe has won MAAC Rookie of the Week Honors this week , and is the third freshman to win the honor for the Stags this season. He is joined by Marcus Gilbert ’16 (who won the award twice in December) and Mikulic, who won in November.

Sidibe was honored after scoring 10 points and nine rebounds against Saint Peter’s.

The same game was also significant, as it was Coach Sydney Johnson’s 100th career win. Johnson won 66 games at Princeton University and 34 at Fairfield.

Senior Derek Needham has been putting up impressive numbers. He led all Fairfield scorers with 19 against Saint Peter’s, and also hit an impressive mark in the Marist game on the 24th.

In the victory, Needham accumulated four assists, which put his career total at 500 assists. He is now the fifth Stag to reach 500, and with 30 more will be in the top three Stags of all-time for assists.

As of their last two games, the Stags are back on track in the MAAC and playing some of the best basketball they have been playing all year.

It’s going to be essential for them to continue to produce offensively while playing strong defensively, which was precisely what they did against Marist. Turnovers need to be minimized in the forthcoming games, to give the Stags more scoring opportunities.

The most important games of the season are ahead for the Stags as they try to build on the last few games. Their seeding in the MAAC Tournament will depend on their MAAC play in the last few games of the season.

While we’ve seen before that seeding does not necessarily determine how a team does in the tournament, the Stags would like to avoid defending champions, Loyola, for as long as possible.

If they continue to play as they have in their last two games, the Stags can look to try to get redemption against Loyola in March.

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