Following a back-and-forth first half, the Fairfield University Women’s Basketball team pulled away in the third quarter, defeating Iona University 67-56 on Sunday, Feb. 24 at Alumni Hall to notch their second consecutive victory.
The Stags came out firing from behind the 3-point arc, sinking four of their first six attempts while answering every shot made by Iona guard Morgan Rachu, who racked up 11 points in the first quarter.
Despite the Stags’ early success, Iona guard Shyan Mwai hit a floater as time expired in the first quarter to tie the game at 18. Fairfield proceeded to miss all five of their 3-point attempts and made just 4-of-17 shots in the second quarter, allowing Iona to open up a 31-27 lead going into the half.
However, Fairfield guard Casey Foley ‘19 took over in the third quarter, scoring 10 points and knocking down all three of her shots, including two from the 3-point range. Fairfield ended the quarter on an 11-4 run, securing the only lead change of the third quarter after a first half that featured ten lead changes and establishing a 49-42 lead.
“We all have the same physical energy, so finding the mental energy is what it was all about,” Foley said, “I give it my all because I trust that my teammates will give it their all.”
Fairfield senior center Khadidiatou Diouf made sure the Stags wouldn’t relinquish that lead, dominating the fourth quarter with six points and seven boards. Diouf scored 19 points while pulling down 20 rebounds, marking the second time this season in which she has tallied at least 20 rebounds.
“I didn’t think [Diouf] got off to a very good start on the offensive end, I thought she was a little jittery,” Fairfield coach Joe Frager said, “To bounce back in that way and to be as solid as she was…she really came up big.”
Rachu finished with 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting and 5 rebounds to lead an Iona team that had hit its stride prior to today’s game but failed to keep up with Fairfield’s high-scoring second-half display.
Fairfield forward Katie Armstrong ‘20 contributed 11 points, but it was Foley who stuffed the stat sheet, scoring 16 points while collecting seven rebounds, six assists, three steals, and a block.
“I just try to do as many things as possible,” Foley said, “At the end of the day, if we win, it doesn’t really matter what the stats are.”
Frager praised his team for the resiliency they showed in fighting back from an early deficit but noted that Fairfield had defensive issues which need to be ironed out sooner rather than later.
“We can’t play defense like we did in the first half,” Frager said, “Once we get into the MAAC tournament, we need to be ready from the get-go.”
Fairfield looks to close out the regular season on a high note and ride this momentum into the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament as the team awaits Rider University on Saturday, March 2 for Senior Night.