Yuri Sendzimir/The Mirror

With March on the horizon, the Men’s Basketball team is coming together in a timely fashion as they are riding a five-game winning streak after beating Loyola 68-51 this past Sunday.

Four starters scored in double figures against the Greyhounds, but it was the defense of the Stags that led to the important road victory. Fairfield held Loyola to 28 percent shooting while accumulating an impressive 10 steals in the process.

Coach Sydney Johnson praised his team’s efforts and acknowledged that all of his players are putting in the hard work on the defensive side of the ball.

“We have a lot of very good defensive players; Colin Nickerson and Jamel Fields are names that come to mind. But even though Rakim Sanders and Derek Needham are known for their offense, they’ve also been outstanding defensively all season,” said Johnson.

“The way we practice allows us to have the right intensity and focus during these games,” said senior forward Rakim Sanders. “Home or away, nothing changes, we just have to keep doing things the same.”

The Stags were able to earn the win without their starting point guard, Desmond Wade, who was out with a pulled left hamstring that occurred last Thursday night against the Manhattan Jaspers. Nevertheless, the depth the Stags have at the guard position was showcased without Wade’s presence in Sunday’s contest.

“It was wise to keep [Wade] out of the game, we know Desmond is in this for the long haul. Our guards embraced the role of giving us a lift without Wade in the game,” said Johnson. “We’ve been doing it as a collective unit over the past 7/8 games and we just have to stay with that mindset.”

One statistic that popped out from Sunday’s game was that Fairfield was an efficient 7 from 8 from behind the three-point line. Over the course of this season, it’s been extremely rare to see the Stags have less than double-digit attempts from beyond the arc.

“We definitely want to shoot the ball and shoot it well. We had an outstanding percentage against Loyola, but we have to continue to mix and match our shooting with driving to the lane and post match-ups. It just happened to be one of those days,” said Johnson.

The Stags will have their last home game of the regular season when they square off against Saint Peter’s this Wednesday. The last time Fairfield hosted the Peacocks, the Stags were heartbroken in what was a devastating MAAC Championship game.

Although Sydney Johnson was not Fairfield’s coach last year, he realizes the implications of this game, especially with this year’s graduating class being honored before the contest for Senior Night.

“Saint Peter’s are the defending MAAC champions and they still have that magic in them. They are well-coached and they really took it to us here last time, so we have to go out there with a certain level of confidence,” said Johnson.

Confidence will be crucial going forward as the regular season concludes with the Stags playing four consecutive road games, which includes a match-up against the first place Iona Gaels.

“These guys are committed to playing hard for each other. Whether home or away, it shouldn’t change and that’s my hope and expectation,” said Johnson.  “We have to do our best no matter where we are.”

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