Everyone had a big red circle around Nov. 23. It was the game to see: Fairfield University played against defending national champions Louisville in the Naismith Hall of Fame Tournament.
Although the game didn’t end in Fairfield’s favor, with the Stags falling 71-57, it’s easy to see some strong moments from the Stags. The team held the Cardinals to only 71 points, the second lowest point total for Louisville this season.
In the postgame press conference, Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino quickly stated that this was the worst game his team had played this season. He was also quick to say that a lot of credit was due to the Stags.
“We didn’t do the little things necessary to exploit the weaknesses of Fairfield,” Pitino said. “We were late to the glass a lot. A lot of things were disturbing but we’ll go ahead.”
The Stags opened the game with energy and momentum, which disappeared in the middle, only to reappear again at the end.
The opening minutes of the contest were all Fairfield. Six and a half minutes into the first half, the Stags were up over Louisville 6-2, with points made by Coleman Johnson ‘16, Lincoln Davis ‘17 and Amadou Sidibe ‘16. Louisville wasn’t going to fall behind without a fight though, and brought the game back to 9-7 after a three-pointer from Maurice Barrow ‘14, eight and a half minutes into the game.
After Louisville tied the game at nine, the Stags would not regain the lead for the rest of the game.
For most of the first half, the game remained within reach, until foul trouble hit the Stags. Barrow was forced to sit out most of the first half, after quickly accumulating two fouls. Sophomore Marcus Gilbert also got into foul trouble early on. The fouls kept two of Fairfield’s top offensive players out of the game, and forced the Stags to put in a younger, less experienced team.
At the half, the Stags were trailing 37-23, but the team didn’t let down the fight. Junior Malcolm Gilbert put in a strong defensive effort, blocking shots and grabbing eight defensive rebounds. He also put in a solid effort on offense, culminating with his dunk to rebut Montrezl Harrell’s from earlier in the game.
Johnson and KJ Rose ‘17 also added energetic dunks at the end of the contest.
The Stags put in a respectable and solid effort against the defending national champions and the current third best team in the nation. Head Coach Sydney Johnson was pleased with his team’s effort, saying that although the team lost, “this does nothing but help us out.”
“We grew up a bit today, and we got some confidence,” he said.
Today, men’s basketball will play Richmond in the consolation game of the tournament, while Louisville will go on to play UNC in the title game.