The Fairfield University men’s basketball team traveled just five minutes down the road to face their crosstown rivals the Sacred Heart University Pioneers on Nov. 20. This was the Stags’ first ever appearance and win at the Pitt Center.
The 71-61 victory for Fairfield also kept their win streak against Sacred Heart intact, improving the overall record to a perfect 8-0 all-time.
The Stags were led by graduate student Taj Benning, who scored 15 points, and Jake Wojick ‘22 who also had a solid game with 14 of his own. This should not be any surprise for Fairfield faithfuls, as these two were the top scorers last year and are continuing on the same trend this campaign.
From the start Fairfield controlled the game, never letting the Pioneers get into any type of rhythm or comfort. The Stags also led for the majority of the game, only allowing the lead to change over one time throughout the contest.
After a 10-2 opening Stag run in the first three minutes, the game remained in a consistent flow, each team trading baskets, but with the Stags’ big tip-off run, they had the edge in the first half.
Heading into the break, Fairfield had a six-point lead, holding the Pioneers to only just 28 points in the first 20 minutes of the matchup. Confident and hungry to beat their rivals, the Stags were looking to finish the second half how they played the first.
The Pioneers did not give up as you would expect, quickly scoring eight points in the opening start of the second half and taking a 35-34 lead over the Stags, their first of the night.
This was unacceptable for head coach Jay Young and his men; a timeout was placed for the Stags to regroup. The Stags responded as a big team would in a rivalry game, getting started with a layup from graduate student Jesus Cruz and first-year TJ Long’s back-to-back three-point shots.
Cruz then would fire a trey of his own to rebuild a 45-38 lead; Fairfield had all of the momentum and ran with it. The Stags took the biggest lead of the night with just under four minutes remaining when Wojcik and graduate student Caleb Green each drained their own three-pointers to make the score 64-52.
The Pioneers tried to crawl back, going on a mini-run towards the end of the contest, but it was simply not enough to get past the Stags. Fairfield sealed the 71-61 win in a big crosstown rivalry game.
This win improved the Stags record to 2-2 on the season, a tremendous confidence booster for the squad.
The Stags will travel next to Buffalo, N.Y., where they will face the Canisius Golden Griffins at the start of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play. The Stags will be itching to start 1-0 in the conference but will face a tough Griffins team.
Fans can view the game and live stats to show their support on the official athletic website for the University. Go Stags!