The Fairfield University men’s basketball team has a lot to be excited about this season. The new, state-of-the-art Leo D. Mahoney Arena has been a massive success for the program, ushering in a new era and rejuvenated energy that hasn’t been seen in quite some time. Attendance has been a major hit as student interest has skyrocketed with multiple sellouts so far during this ensuing campaign.
In addition to the added excitement surrounding the arena and reinvigorated fanbase, the Stags have also seen their quality of play improve from last season. Although their current record stands at 10-13 to go along with a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference record of 6-7, they have been competitive in most of the games they have played in, with their biggest deficit coming at the hands of non-conference opponent Wagner College by 16 points.
The Stags kicked off their MAAC campaign on Dec. 1 against Manhattan College, falling just short by three points in a tough 56-53 loss. A key takeaway from this contest was the Stags pulling down 22 offensive rebounds, the most boards they’ve picked up in a game since a Jan. 4, 2010 tilt with conference foe Niagara University, in which they picked up 20 of their own boards.
The Stags finished with 44 boards overall in the contest in comparison to Manhattan’s 29. Unfortunately, poor shooting from the field and an inability to hold on to their lead came back to haunt the Stags, as Manhattan came back to win after trailing by as many as 11 points.
The Stags had a much more memorable night two days later, in which they christened their new home by hosting Saint Peter’s University in a sold-out, energetic Leo D. Mahoney Arena. They benefited strongly from their robust and vigorous home-field advantage by dominating the Peacocks, fresh off of an National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament appearance last season, by taking the win, 67-55. Graduate guard Caleb Fields played all 40 minutes by adding 19 points to his name, sinking in two threes and by going five-for-seven from the free-throw line.
Forward Supreme Cook ‘24 made his physical presence known, as the 6′ 9 star from East Orange, N.J. pulled down 11 boards for the third straight game to go along with 11 points en route to his first double-double of the season. Forward Allan Jeanne-Rose ‘23 and guard Jalen Leach ‘24 joined Fields and Cook by joining the double-digit club, collecting 11 and 10 points respectively in a memorable night for the team.
The Stags played their second home contest of the season by hosting crosstown rival Sacred Heart University. In a contest that should be simply described as a “nail-bitter,” the Stags pulled away with a last-second victory as Fields hit the game-winning layup with 0.9 seconds left, putting them in front of the Pioneers, 61-59. The Stags at one point led by as many as eight points, before later on trailing by as many as nine after three-consecutive Sacred Heart three pointers. They stormed back thanks to key free throws, winning inside the paint by bringing down rebounds, and displayed lockdown defense that stagnated the Sacred Heart offense, who failed to put up any points in the remaining 3:13 of play.
The Stags then hosted another non-conference, in-state foe at Yale University on Monday, December, 12, taking the loss, 77-64. After coming out of halftime with a 29-24 lead, Yale dominated the second half by putting up 53 points in comparison to the Stags’ 35. The Stags continued their homestand by hosting yet another non-conference, in-state opponent in the United States Coast Guard Academy on Sunday, Dec. 18. They rebounded with an 86-45 victory in a dominant offensive performance. All active members contributed with at least two points apiece, with Cook leading the way with 21 points while bringing down 13 boards, a steal and a block. Guard James Johns Jr. ‘26 made his presence known by putting up 11 while collecting eight rebounds in a well-rounded team victory.
The Stags were scheduled to play their final non-conference opponent of the season by hosting Drexel University on Thursday, Dec. 22 before being postponed. They returned to action on Friday, Dec. 30 by hosting conference foe Marist College. The Stags took down the Red Foxes in a 73-54 triumph. Guard TJ Long ‘25 had an impressive performance by dropping a career-high 25 points while Cook helped him out by adding 15 points and seven rebounds. More impressive was the Stags defensive play, with 34 of their points coming off of 20 Marist turnovers, half of which were steals. Up to that point, the Stags had the toughest defense in the MAAC, only allowing an average of 63.9 points per game.
The Stags closed out their seven-game homestand with close losses to Siena College and Niagara University, falling short in those contests 70-61 and 77-69 in overtime, respectively. The Siena game got off to a rough start, as the Stags found themselves trailing by as many as 18 points in the first half and by as many as 16 with 13:09 left in the second. Long and Jeanne-Rose led the team with 19 and 15 points, correspondingly. In the Niagara contest, the Stags were down by five points with 1:30 to play before guard Jake Wojcik ‘23 tied the game with 0.1 seconds remaining by making both of his free throws to send the game into overtime off of a last-second Niagara foul. The Stags got outplayed in overtime, 14-6, handing the game to the Purple Eagles. Cook and Fields each put up 17 apiece while Cook brought down 17 boards, which tied the most by any MAAC player in a game up to that point in the season.
The Stags proceeded to go on a two-game road trip, first by making a short trip to New Rochelle, N.Y. to face Iona College, falling short, 75-69. A highlight in that contest was Wojcik putting up 16 points, which helped him cross the threshold of achieving the tremendous milestone of 1,000 collegiate career points. Lang added 18 of his own while Cook added 14 in addition to making his presence known on defense by committing three blocks against star Gaels center Kelly Junior Joseph.
Next, the Stags traveled to the Garden State in a contest against Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, N.J. The Stags swept the season series against the Peacocks, winning a close contest 56-52 after overcoming a seven-point deficit coming out of halftime. Wojcik led the way with 17 points, with 15 coming in the second half. Jeanne-Rose had a well-rounded game by putting up 10, bringing down four boards, dishing out three assists and by blocking four of the Stags’ season-high nine blocks during the contest. A major key to their win was limiting Saint Peter’s to a 27.6% shooting from the floor, 12.5% from distance, and 77.8% from the stripe.
The team returned home for a Friday matchup on Jan. 20 against Canisius College, paving themselves a path to a 67-58 victory. Wojcik put up a season-high 18 points while Jeanne-Rose and Cook put up 15 points each, with the latter posting his second double-double of the season by bringing down 12 boards. Fields joined the double-digit club by adding 10 of his own. A major key to the Stags victory was their performance in the turnover battle, besting the Golden Griffins in that category, 13-12, turning those 13 turnovers into 16 points for the herd.
The Stags packed their bags for a few days as they traveled to Albany, N.Y., to take on Siena College in a 62-52 triumph. Leading the way for the herd was Cook, who put up 12 while racking up six boards. Forward Chris Maidoh ‘23 put on an impressive performance by racking up nine of his own, leading the team in that category. The Stags also put on a strong finish in the second half by putting up 47 after a sluggish start that only saw them put up 15 in the first, the lowest amount of points they had scored in a half leading up to that point. A vital component of their victory was their shooting, in which they shot 17-for-26 from the floor in the second half, registering a 65.4 shooting percentage.
They then headed south to Emmitsburg, Md., for a matchup against Mount Saint Mary’s University, pulling away with a 63-60 win. Jeanne-Rose tied his season-best with 16 points to lead the way offensively in the Stags’ fourth consecutive victory. Long added 10 while Cook fell just short of his third double-double of the season with nine points and grabbing 11 boards. The game was back and forth, as the two teams traded leads early on in the frame before the Stags seized control and held on in a close matchup, never leading by more than four points. A stout defensive showing and clutch free-throws made by Leach and Wojcik near the end of the frame held off their newly-added conference foes from taking advantage.
The Stags then proceeded to return home to Leo D. Mahoney Arena with a date against Rider University on Sunday, Jan. 29. They fell short in overtime, 78-69, after holding an eight-point lead coming out of the half. Cook registered another double-double, putting up 16 and bringing down 10 boards, while Long, Leach, and Jeanne-Rose each added 13, 12, and 10 points respectively. The Stags got unlucky when the Broncs forced overtime off of a putback at the buzzer by Rider’s Allen Powell. They then made a short trek up to Quinnipiac University on Friday, Feb. 3 in which they lost 66-51. Quinnipiac dominated from the field, shooting 63 percent in the second half, which determined the result of the game after a fast start slipped away from the Stags, in which they led 18-6 at one point. A bright spot was Jeanne-Rose, who produced 17 points, a season-high. They then returned home two days later to face off against Iona, in which they took the loss, 70-61, cutting the deficit short to nine after trailing by as many as 21 points at one point in the second half.
The Stags next matchup will be against Rider University on Friday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. in Lawrenceville, N.J. Their next home contest will be held on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 2 p.m. against Mount Saint Mary’s University. For more information about the Fairfield University men’s basketball program and Fairfield Athletics as a whole, please visit www.fairfieldstags.com for more information.