The Fairfield University men’s basketball team played games on Nov. 25, 26 and 27 in the Hostilo Hoops Community Classic down in Savannah, Ga. Going into the games, the Stags were 0-4, with a rocky start to their season.
Fairfield found its first victory in their first game of the weekend, defeating a previously unbeaten Towson University 74-69.
The Stags had their best offensive outing of the young season, putting up their most points with 74, field goals made with 25, field goal percentage which was 50%, three-pointers made with 11 and a three-point percentage shooting 47.8% according to the game’s official recap.
The Stags had a very balanced attack with nine total players scoring points and none of them scoring over 15 points. Sophomore T.J. Long led the team in scoring with 15, going 3-6 from three and 6-11 from the field while also posting three rebounds. Graduate student Caleb Fields followed with 11 points and both Jalen Leach ‘24 and redshirt-senior Jake Wojcik put up nine for the Stags, with Wojcik doing it from off the bench and scoring his 100th three-pointer for Fairfield. Junior Supreme Cook led the team with seven boards with Makai Willis ‘25 posting six from off the bench according to the game’s box score.
After earning the top spot in the Colonial Athletic Association last season and starting off hot with five straight wins, Towson cooled off against the Stags and was not very successful offensively. They shot 44.4% from the field and just 23.1% from outside the arc, going just 3-13 compared to Fairfield’s 11-23 which played a difference in the game.
The game remained close for its entirety with the Stags leading by just one with a score of 34-33 at the half. Coming out of the locker room, the Stags opened up strong, taking a nine-point lead just seven minutes into the final frame, leading 51-42. Towson didn’t quit, continuously fighting back and went on a 16-7 run over a four-minute period to tie the game at 58. The game remained close with Towson tying it up multiple times but Fairfield took a five-point lead with 4:21 left in the match and didn’t give it back.
Still trailing by a few, both Towson’s offensive and defensive pressure stepped up to fight and claw back into it making it just a one-point game with 58 seconds left. Then after a forced turnover due to their full-court press, Towson had a chance to take the lead but a Cook block sent that opportunity aside. With just 28 seconds left, Fairfield got the ball back and was fouled, they made their free throws and put the Towson team down finishing the game up by five. Leach went four-for-four from the line in the game, including some clutch ones to give the Stags the cushion they needed to secure the win.
“That was a good team win, everybody who checked in to the game made positive contributions,” said Head Coach Jay Young in the game’s official recap. “It was nice to see some shots go in, especially for some guys who had been struggling to find their shot, and I was proud to see us tough one out against a talented and well-coached Towson team.”
The next night Fairfield took on Mercer University and fell 60-58. Fairfield’s offense cooled off from their Friday night game against Towson. The Stags shot an abysmal 3-23 from outside the arc which put them at 13%. They also shot poorly from the field, looking at just a 39% field goal percentage according to the game’s official box score.
The game consisted of multiple big runs which alternated between teams. The first half began with the Stags down 6-3 then making a 12-point run to gain the lead. Mercer then followed with an eight-point run of their own to close the gap. The Stags then went on to score seven straight followed by the Bears going on a 10-2 run to tie the game up at 24 going into the half.
The second half remained tight with both offenses scoring more often and more consistently. The score was knotted up at 48 with roughly seven minutes to play. Leach then hit a three-pointer followed by a Cook mid-range shot. Long followed up the make with a forced turnover which led to a Jeanne-Rose slam giving Fairfield a seven-point lead with five and a half minutes left.
Fairfield’s offense dwindled after the dunk, going on a cold streak, missing their next six shot attempts as Mercer slowly mounted a comeback. Mercer took the lead 59-55 with less than a minute left in the game. The Stags then sank a shot and drew an offensive foul to get the possession and the chance to tie the game or take the lead. Leach was fouled and made one of two to make it a one-point match. Fairfield had to foul, leading to a Mercer one-for-two at the line. Long took a halfcourt buzzer-beater to win the game which just missed, ending the game with Fairfield down two.
Cook led the team with 17 points and seven boards followed by Leach with eight and Fields and Jeanne-Rose with seven each. Long also contributed with seven boards and five points of his own. Fields led the team with seven assists.
“We didn’t defend the way we needed to in the second half,” Young said in the game’s official recap. “We hit a stretch where we couldn’t get stops and then we coupled that with a four-minute drought on offense. Credit to Mercer for making the plays they needed to make, but I feel like we let one get away.”
In their third and final game in the Hostilo Hoops Community Classic, the Stags went on a second-half run to secure a victory over the University of Evansville, 63-56. This win sent the Stags to 2-5 having both of their wins come over the weekend going 2-1.
The Stags were led by their starters, scoring just six bench points while Evansville had a more balanced attack, scoring 18 from the bench. Fairfield also had seven more turnovers than Evansville, leading to a 12-point differential in points off turnovers in favor of Evansville.
Fields led the Stags in scoring with 21, which is the most points scored by a Stag this season. Fields went 5-12 from the field but made 10 free throws on his 12 attempts. He also contributed three rebounds and an assist according to the game’s box score. Jeanne-Rose and Long also each had 12 points and two assists with Jeanne-Rose posting five boards of his own. Cook led the team in rebounding once again with 11 and put up seven points on four field goal attempts, making two and seven free throws in addition to making three.
Fairfield outrebounded Evansville by a margin of 10 with 39 to their 29. The likely difference in the game was the 7-17 from the line for Evansville at just 41.2% compared to Fairfield, who didn’t shoot too well from the charity stripe but still managed to go 23-34 at 67.6%, which gave them the edge they needed.
The game went into half, a close contest with Fairfield up just one point with a score of 28-27. Evansville came out hot in the second half, going on a 13-3 run to start it off followed by nine straight Stag points, closing the gap. With the score being 53-48 in favor of Fairfield with 3:19 remaining, Fairfield locked down on defense allowing just four points in roughly the next three minutes and continued scoring, making it 60-52 with just 30 seconds left.
“Tonight was a gritty, hard-fought win at the end of a long weekend,” Young said in the game’s official recap. “It wasn’t pretty at times, but I was proud of the way we responded after falling behind in the second half – chipping away two points at a time, making our free throws and getting stops when we needed them.”
The Stags face Manhattan College on Thursday, Dec. 1 to begin their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play and then come home for their first game at the Leo D. Mahoney Arena on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. vs Saint Peter’s University.