On Saturday, Nov, 10, the Fairfield University Men’s Basketball team took on the Bucknell University Bison as they traveled to Sojka Pavilion in Lewisburg, Pa. The Stags had four hours to prepare during their drive from campus and, coming off of a loss to #22/24 Purdue University 90-57, the Stags were hungry to take on the reigning Patriot League Champs.
To start off the game, a Wassef Methnani ’21 jumper and a Landon Taliaferro ‘20 bucket from beyond the arc gave Fairfield a quick 5-2 lead. A lead that extended to a 13 point gap for the Stags. The first half of the game was riddled with fouls on both sides of the court as Fairfield accounted for 13 and the Bison with nine, totaling about 21 fouls in the first half.
In this half, the Stags’ leading scorer was Neftali Alvarez ‘22, who was able to throw up 10 points on four out of five shots compared to Bucknell’s Avi Turner who shot seven points. Helping Alvarez out was Taj Benning ‘21 with seven points and Taliaferro ‘20 who scored points, both of whom helped secure a 10 point lead for the Stags heading into halftime.
The second half began at a much slower pace than the first, with fouls and turnovers forced on both sides. As the game wore on, Bucknell was able to slowly eat away at the Fairfield lead. To brighten Bison hopes, they drew the 5th and final fouls from both of Fairfield’s big men, Methnani and Jonathan Kasibabu ‘19. By the final five minutes, the game began to come within a five point margin as Bucknell fought their way back into the game. Eventually, with nine minutes and two seconds left, the Bison were able to tie the game on a Mackenzie layup. But clearly Fairfield wasn’t giving in as first-year phenomenon Alvarez hauled down court, drove in the paint, spun and floated in a bucket to give Fairfield the lead with three minutes and two seconds remaining. Then, with one last ounce of hope, Bucknell’s Jimmy Sotos pushed down the court and heaved a last second 30 footer in retaliation. Fortunately for the Stags, the shot didn’t fall as it hit the glass and bounced off the rim. Fairfield won 60-58 and improves to 1-1 on the season.
For the second straight game, Alvarez was able to lead the Stags in scoring (16) compared to Bucknell’s Kimbal McKenzie (15). Fairfield’s Jesus Cruz ‘21 (10 points) and Taliaferro (12 points) were also able to drop significant numbers. Alvarez was also able to lead the team in rebounds (seven) compared to Bucknell’s Paul Newman and Ben Robertson (tied at seven).
Bucknell was able to out hustle the Stags in the rebound category (41-27), especially on Fairfield’s own side where the Bison snatched 17 offensive rebounds to the Stags’ seven. Turnovers (Fairfield-13 / Bucknell-14) and fouls (Fairfield-23 / Bucknell-20) were high, yet relatively even in what was a tightly officiated match. Fairfield made 14-of-17 free throws to Bucknell’s 13-of-22. Most notably, Fairfield’s Benning was able to hit 100 percent from the line, making all seven of his free throws. With the game coming down to two points, it seems as if making free throws was a heavy decision maker in who won the game.
This coming Tuesday, Nov. 13, the Stags look to play Long Island University-Brooklyn in Bridgeport, Conn.