Ever since the Stags last won in 1997, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament has been the bane of Fairfield University basketball’s existence. For two decades now, the Stags have fallen short of an automatic bid to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament in the year’s culmination point of a grueling conference campaign.

On Saturday, March 4 at the Times Union Center, the host and fourth-seeded Siena Saints bested the fifth-seeded Stags 78-66 in the tournament quarterfinals. Despite a 25-point effort from First Team All-MAAC guard Tyler Nelson ‘18, the Fairfield offense struggled from the floor and turned the ball over 17 times on the way to a disappointing first round exit.

Fairfield burst out of the gates with three pointers from Nelson and fellow guard Jerome Segura ‘18 to grab a 6-2 lead. But the four-point advantage would be the Stags only lead of the game as the Saints quickly took command, never relinquishing the lead for the remainder of the contest.

After the two threes, Fairfield went on a nearly eight-minute scoring drought in which Siena scored 16 straight points during the time frame to take an 18-6 lead midway through the first half. The Stags deficit would never get closer than eight points for the rest of the half as Siena had an answer for every potential Fairfield run. At the end of 30 minutes, the red and white were down 38-27 with all the momentum belonging to the Saints in front of their home crowd.

The Stags proved to the Fairfield faithful that the squad would not give up at the hands of Siena in the second half. With nine minutes left in the half, Jerry Johnson ‘19 converted a layup to cut the lead to 52-47. But Siena would go on an unbelievable 10-0 run to once and for all slash the Stags hope of completing a MAAC miracle. At 62-47 with under seven minutes on the clock, a quarterfinal exit was becoming a reality.

Fairfield would pull as close as eight points in the final seven minutes of the game, but the outcome was all but decided as Siena held complete control of the game’s flow. When everything was all set and done, the Saints had beaten the Stags for the third time this season, this time in the most important game of the 2017 campaign.

To go along with Nelson’s 25 points, Matija Milin ‘19 chipped in 14 points while graduate student Amadou Sidibe scored 10 points in his final collegiate game for Fairfield. The Stags finished the year with a 16-14 overall record and an 11-9 marker in conference play.  

 

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