On a night where standout freshman Matija Milin scored 19 points, the Stags were victorious over Manhattan with a final score of 80-70 on Sunday, Feb. 8. Although the Jaspers put together a late second half comeback, Fairfield’s team was too much to handle.

After starting 0-6 from the field, the Stags looked to forward Jonathan Kasibabu ‘19. He converted three consecutive three-point plays. Manhattan came out with a trap defense, looking to frazzle the backcourt and force bad passes.

However, the Stags quickly realized their advantage down low and continued to feed Kasibabu and Milin. With their dominance in the paint, it was no surprise the Stags finished with an astonishing 44 rebounds to the Jaspers’ 18. The success on the boards gave the Stags more chances on the offensive end, as the Jaspers were only able to grab five offensive rebounds.

As the game progressed, the Stags became more comfortable beating the Jaspers’ zone press and started to knock down some big time shots.  Freshman Jerry Johnson, Jr. knocked down three shots from beyond the arc in the first half. Milin hit two knock down jumpers from the elbow, keeping the defense honest. Kasibabu was dominant on the post and Manhattan struggled to match up with him. At the half, the score was 41-29 Stags.

Sophomore Tyler Nelson got into early foul trouble and saw limited minutes in the first half. However, his shooting ability and in-game experience wasn’t needed – Kasibabu, Milin, Johnson Jr., and Curtis Cobb took on the offensive load and led the way scoring as the Stags put up an impressive 41 points at the half.

When asked about the play of his freshmen class, head coach Sydney Johnson said, “I’m confident and comfortable with whoever’s on the court, so we just rolled with it.” The freshmen players rose to the occasion when leading scorers Marcus Gilbert ‘16 and Nelson were on the bench.

The second half was much of the same for the Stags as Cobb added 11 of his 19 points after the break. The Jaspers attempted to put together a comeback, but the Stags’ defensive presence proved to be too much for them to handle. The Jaspers brought an intense full court press and forced a few key turnovers that got them back into the contest.

Manhattan guard Shane Richards got hot as the Jaspers chipped away at the lead. However, despite putting up 22 points, Richards shot only 3-11 from three land. With two minutes to go, they cut the lead down to just six. However, a few missed shots and some key defensive rebounds sealed the win for the Stags.

After a two game skid, the Stags came back to the Webster Bank Arena with energy and focus to take down Manhattan. “It’s a rivalry game – our backs were against the wall. I think we knew we didn’t have a great account of ourselves when we played Monmouth [last game]. We knew we had to correct that. We had a very physical and loud shoot around this morning, and we rolled into this game really prepared to play,” said Johnson of his team’s bounce back effort.

All in all, the Stags showed intensity and grit on the defensive end. They took care of the rebounds and shot efficiently, going 53 percent from the field. The Stags hope to continue their good play as they hit the road to face their instate-rival the Bobcats of Quinnipiac University on Saturday, Feb. 13.

 

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