Thomas Shea/The Mirror
About a week ago, a video appeared online in which the Sacred Heart Pioneer invaded Fairfield’s campus as an inspiration for Sacred Heart’s fans to come to the basketball game on Saturday night. Within a few days, Fairfield had a combatting video. The Fairfield video was similar, but ended with the students coming to the realization that we don’t need to do this, we never lose to Sacred Heart.
After Saturday night’s 67-54 win over Sacred Heart in the Connecticut Six Tournament, Fairfield improved to a perfect 8-0 in matchups versus the Pioneers.
There were a good amount of uncertainties heading into the game that worked themselves out by the time that the final buzzer sounded. There was a question of who would take charge of the Fairfield defense. The team is offensively stacked, without having many defensive options.
Malcolm Gilbert ‘15 put the fans’ nerves at ease with his dominant defensive performance, in which he tallied eight blocks and 11 rebounds. He was a defensive forced to be reckoned with, making his presence known to Sacred Heart’s offense. The longer Gilbert was on the court, the more rushed the Sacred Heart offense became.
There was also the fear that the new comers to the team wouldn’t find their place amongst the team. Freshmen KJ Rose got his first start of the season, and proved to everyone that the start was well-deserved. Rose ended the game with nine total points from three field goals and three free throws. He also had two assists and five rebounds in his impressive first game.
Freshman Doug Chappell also put in a solid contribution, adding eight points to the effort, and adding a strong nineteen minutes off the bench.
The game as a whole for the Stags was a bit of a roller coaster. The Pioneers went out strong, jumping out to a 17-6 lead within the first ten minutes of the game. Before the half was over though, Fairfield had retaken their lead and never looked back.
The Stags went on a 25-6 run, gaining the momentum for the rest of the game. The team never looked back after gaining the lead on a three-pointer from Sean Grennan ‘15, that made the score 17-16 in favor of Fairfield with less than seven minutes to play in the first half.
Minutes before the end of the first half, the Stags had extended their lead to 13 points, leading Sacred Heart 33-20. The Stags would maintain their lead heading into the locker room, 36-26.
It took two minutes and 50 seconds for the Stags to open their scoring in the second half. Captain Amadou Sidibe ‘16 tallied their first points of the half with a three-point play that gave the Stags the momentum to go on an 8-0 run right after to bring the score to 44-27.
It was around this time that the Sacred Heart faithful began to leave Webster Bank Arena in droves. It only got worse for the Pioneers as Lincoln Davis ‘17 scored a three-point basket to extend Fairfield’s lead to 18. The Stags would maintain their 18 point lead until Sacred Heart closed the gap to 10 with four minutes and 57 seconds remaining in the game.
There was a bit of nervous tension around the arena as Sacred Heart began to creep back into the game. In their preseason game against the University of Bridgeport, the Stags did not score an in the run of play basket in the final nine minutes. The dry spell would cost the Stags the game in the 63-59 decision.
However, this game was not a repeat and the Stags would emerge from the game victorious.
“We were thrilled to win. We know there’s a little bit of a rivalry between the two schools and Anthony does a great job and his guys were obviously were ready to play and they kind of had us on our heels. But we’re thrilled to come away with a win,” said Johnson after the game.
As expected, there were good and bad statistics from the team. A big highlight was the 14 points from Maurice Barrow ‘14 and the 13 points from Marcus Gilbert ‘16. As the lone senior on the team, it was a good sign to see him controlling the team while on the court.
Of course there were also a few statistics that the Stags will hope to improve on before some of their big upcoming games. They totalled 26 turnovers, a stat that Johnson admitted would have to change.
“We just work on the things that we need to work on. We work on the weaknesses that we have and just focus on them in practice and just keep pounding it and just keep practicing it and just get better and better at it,” said Malcolm Gilbert.
There are some big games looming on the horizon that the Stags are going to need to be prepared for. From their first to second game there has been a significant improvement in their play. With continuous growth, come MAAC regular season, the Stags will be prepared to take on the rest of the league.
Before that though, the Stags will take on the University of Hartford at Webster Bank Arena at 7 p.m.