The Fairfield University men’s basketball team kicked off their season last week with two away games at Boston College and the University of Rhode Island. The team has faced many challenges over the past few weeks, with injuries to many key players, an extremely late departure into the transfer portal and the loss of three out of their four main coaches just weeks before the opening tip off. With that being said, the team has handled the adversity admirably at all levels, and has shown they will continue to compete at the highest level.
The first game of the season tipped off at 8 p.m. on Monday Nov. 6 with the Stags squaring off against a very good Boston College team. The Stags were without four players who were thought to be key pieces of the team heading into the season, with probable starters Jalen Leach ‘24, preseason all-MAAC second team pick and graduate student Caleb Fields, preseason all-MAAC third team and graduate student Alexis Yetna and Birima Seck ‘25 all missing due to injury.
The injuries to Yetna and Seck particularly hurt the team as they were left with only one remaining big man who had never played in a collegiate game prior to Monday, Peyton Smith ‘27. This left the Stags essentially without four out of their predicted starting five when fully healthy, along with a key reserve.
Boston College started off the game hot with seven-footer Quentin Post getting some easy buckets. Post was on fire all night and finished the game with 31 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks. The Stags were outmatched from the tip, but managed to keep the game relatively close the whole first half.
The Eagles started to pull away in the second half, but good shooting performances from the Stags kept it from getting out of hand. Redshirt Senior Brycen Goodine had a very strong performance after being injured almost all of last year. The six-foot-four guard led the stags in scoring and finished with 22 points.
Redshirt Freshman Michael Rogan had a great debut, scoring 18 on four-for-six shooting from deep. While the Fairfield squad was outmatched due to size and experience, there were many positives to take away from the game. One such positive was that they managed to win the turnover battle, an important aspect of any game.
The new freshman Smith, who committed to Fairfield late in the summer, also appears to be a great find, and will have time to develop more once Seck and Yetna return from injury.
“I’m proud of our effort and our fight tonight. We knew going in that Boston College represented a challenge, but there were also things within our control that we can improve upon,” said Interim Head Coach Chris Casey according to the game’s official recap. The Stags fell 89-70.
“I look forward to what’s to come for this group of guys starting with another test on Thursday at URI,” he continued. This was Casey’s first game as the head coach after working as an assistant coach on the team for the past four campaigns.
Next, the team traveled to South Kingstown, R.I., on Thursday, Nov. 9 to take on the University of Rhode Island. The Stags played with only a seven-man rotation this game, as they only had eight scholarship players available.
Goodine once again had a strong performance, matching his point total from the first game. Recent St. Joseph College transfer Louis Bleechmore ‘24 had a great performance, finishing with a career-high 24 points along with 12 rebounds and three steals. Newcomer Jasper Floyd ‘25 also had a strong performance, as he played the full forty minutes and almost finished with a rare triple double.
Unfortunately, the final score of this game tells a different story than what the game was actually like. While the Stags only lost by 13 points, this was mostly due to a late push with less than nine minutes to go in the game. During this time, the Stags outscored the Rams by 21 to close the gap. They put up a fight, but lost 93-80.
The team did not show any signs of defeat and played hard until the final whistle. The Rams were red hot from the start and did not let up at all until the final minutes of the game.
High Point University transfer Jaden House scored 18 points in the first 10 minutes of the game, going four-for-five from distance. He would go on to finish the game with 22 points. The Stags were also sorely lacking size on the interior, and it was quite obvious from the jump.
Peyton Smith did his best to defend the Rams’ big men, but it was a tough task when multiple of them played at the same time. Fairfield’s next tallest available players were Bleechmore and Rogan, with the former being listed as 6-6 and the second being more of a guard and perimeter wing by trade.
“In the second half, we showed some signs of the team we are capable of being this season. The effort and the intensity were there for 40 minutes, but we need to be more consistent in our execution,” said Interim Head Coach Chris Casey according to the game’s official recap.
“We’ve learned a lot about ourselves over these first two games, and we will continue to work hard and improve as we go through the non-conference portion of our schedule,” he continued. The Stags scored 56 points in the second half, more than double that of what they scored in the first.
The Stags took to the Leo D. Mahoney court on Monday, Nov. 13 in a bout versus Mount Saint Mary College. The Stags won 92-45 to take their first win of the season.
Additionally, the win marked Casey’s first win as head coach. Casey and the Stags were no match for the Knights, who nearly matched the Stags’ three-point shooting percentage of 38.5% with a 30% rate of their own. However, the Stags pulled away in regular field goal shooting.
Fairfield’s next game is against Drexel University in Philadelphia on Friday, Nov. 17, as they kick off the Market Street Challenge tournament. Stags fans can also look forward to Nov. 24, when the team returns home for their second Division I home game of the season against the University of New Hampshire at Leo D. Mahoney Arena.