The Fairfield University men’s basketball team had two games this past week in which they posted a 1-1 record. The week started with an away loss at Rider University on Friday before the team brought home a win on Sunday against Mount St. Mary’s University at Leo D. Mahoney Arena. The Stags now stand at 11-14 on the season heading into this week’s contests.
Fairfield headed to Lawrenceville, N.J., on Friday to take on a red-hot Rider team that was on a seven-game winning streak. The streak included a big win over Rick Pitino’s Iona University, as well as a close overtime win against Fairfield two weeks prior. The Stags were unable to come away victorious yet again with another extremely close loss. Fairfield came into the game missing two key players with redshirt senior Jake Wojcik and Chris Maidoh’ 23 both being sidelined due to injuries. The injury to Wojcik saw forward Makai Willis ‘25 get the start in which he played a season-high 24 minutes. The game was a closely contested affair, with neither team leading by more than six points during the entire game.
Fairfield started the game off in a positive manner, going on a 6-0 run before the Broncs answered with a 12-5 run of their own. The half was a low-scoring defensive affair that ended with a score of 28-27 in favor of the home team. The start of the second half saw another hard-fought battle with neither team managing to create a large lead.
After a couple of back-and-forth possessions, Rider found themselves at the free-throw line down 57-55 with a chance to tie the game with under a minute to go. The Broncs Dwight Murray Jr. sank the first attempt and missed the second, which led to a scramble to grab the rebound, which in turn saw the ball end up in Rider’s Alan Powell’s hands. He drove to the right towards the baseline before pulling up for a mid-range jumper, which he nailed with 7.3 seconds to go. Fairfield then missed a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer, sealing their fate.
Forward Supreme Cook ‘24 led the Stags with 16 points in 24 minutes in which he also pulled down three rebounds according to the game’s official box score. Rider’s Powell was once again a thorn in the side of the Stags, scoring 18 points including the game-winner. With the victory, Rider was able to maintain a small margin on their first-place lead in the MAAC.
Fairfield played well against the number one-ranked MAAC team but just fell short after looking like they might steal a victory on the road. “I’m proud of our effort. We went on the road to play the best team in the league, and we fought hard,” said head coach Jay Young in the game’s official recap. “But to win this type of game, it comes down to details, and we didn’t execute a sideline out-of-bounds and we didn’t box out on a free throw. Plays like that are the difference. So we’ll continue to work hard to correct those types of mistakes and put ourselves in a position to turn these close games into wins.”
At that point in the season, Fairfield had been in ten games decided by six points or less this season, in which they had a record of 4-6. Sunday’s victory changes that record to 5-6.
On Sunday, the team faced off against Mount St. Mary’s in a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee home game. The Stags came into the game needing to break a four-game losing streak and they did, coming away victorious with a 76-72 overtime win over The Mount. It was a tightly contested game throughout, with Mount St. Mary’s holding the lead for much of the second half. The Fairfield team managed to claw themselves back into the game in the final minutes however, putting themselves in a position to win the game where they had the ball in a tie game for the final possession.
The Stags received multiple chances at a game-winner as they grabbed the first miss and then a deflection out of bounds to give them a chance to win with only two seconds remaining. However, after back-to-back missed threes from guard Jalen Leach ‘24 and Graduate Student guard Caleb Fields. Cook had a chance to win the game with a fadeaway jumper, but was unable to connect on the shot. This pushed the game into overtime where the team took the lead early and managed to fend off The Mount for the remainder of the game, emerging victorious with a slim four-point margin.
Guard TJ Long ‘25 had a team-best 21 points for the Stags, including a clutch steal and bucket down the stretch that helped force overtime. Cook had a monster game in the paint, finishing with a double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds. Mount St. Mary’s had some stellar performances of their own, with starting guards Dakota Leffew and Jalen Benjamin scoring 21 and 22 points, respectively. However, their performances were not enough to overcome the Stags on the road. Mount St. Mary’s now sits at 8-18 on the year with a 4-11 record in the MAAC.
The Fairfield team now looks ahead to a game this Friday night at Marist College before returning home to Connecticut on Sunday to square off with Manhattan College at 2 p.m. in the Leo D. Mahoney Arena.