On a day when Fairfield’s seniors were honored for their time and commitment to Fairfield basketball, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference leader Monmouth Hawks came to town to rain on their parade as they dominated the Stags en route to a 82-62 victory. With the victory on Tuesday, Feb. 21, the top-seeded Hawks have now won 14 consecutive games to improve to an overall 23-5 record, 15-2 in conference play.
Monmouth set the tone early in the game as they built an early 15-7 lead just five minutes into the start of the game. But eventually Fairfield began battling back behind the duo of graduate student Amadou Sidibe and Tyler Nelson ‘18.
Sidibe started things for the Stags after connecting on a free throw to finish off the three-point play followed by a shot from three-point range coming off the hands of Nelson. Sidibe would convert another contested layup and Nelson would go on to score the Stags’ next seven points to cut the lead down to five at 30-25 with less than eight minutes left in the half.
Monmouth would continue to connect from the field but Nelson kept the Stags in the game with his shot making in the first half as he finished the half with a total of 20 points to lead all scorers at the half, as the Stags trailed the Hawks 46-34 heading into the second half of play.
The second half saw the Hawks increase their lead as they connected on a few three-pointers to increase their lead to 15, the largest of the game at that point. After scoring 20 points in the first half, Monmouth limited Nelson to just five in the second half as he finished the game with a team-high 25 points.
“I thought he competed, I was proud of how he played both halves. I think Monmouth was just a little bit more aware of him and what he was trying to do offensively in the second half,” said head coach Sydney Johnson of Nelson.
Although the Stags put up a valiant effort throughout the game, Monmouth’s size, competitiveness and field goal percentage was too much for Fairfield to handle. The Hawks shot over 50 percent from the field while connecting on 13 shots from the three-point line to give Monmouth the 82-62 advantage. “I told them I was disappointed with the final result, I loved their effort but we’re going to focus on getting back in the gym together tomorrow,” said Johnson. For Monmouth, Justin Robinson ‘17, who currently leads the MAAC in scoring, finished the game with 18 points alongside Je’lon Hornbeak ‘17 who also dropped 18 points.
The Stags have now dropped two in a row and look to bounce back as they finish the season on the road traveling up to face Canisius on Friday, Feb. 24 followed by a matchup with Niagara on Sunday, Feb. 26.
“It’ll be nice to get some days with them on the road playing against two tough teams, spend a lot of quality time together and see what we can do against Canisius and Niagara when they come our way,” said Johnson. The Stags look to get back on track as they approach the MAAC Tournament starting on Thursday, March 2.