Outside shooting doomed Fairfield from beginning to end Tuesday night, as the Stags fell to Niagara 80-77 at the Arena at Harbor Yard. Fairfield falls to 6-12 overall and 5-6 in the MAAC.

Fairfield played one of its best games of the year, but Niagara was able to connect on 10-23 from three-point range, including the game-winning trey with 5.4 seconds remaining in the game, dropping the Stags to 1-7 this season in games decided by six points or less.

“We did a lot of good things out there,” said head coach Tim O’Toole. ” We knew we had to come out and fight. We needed to get the rebounds and get to the loose balls; we were close, but we couldn’t get over the hump. Their three-pointers killed us.”

But it was Niagara who came out in the first half with the fight in them, leading throughout and by as many as seven points. But the Stags turned the momentum around going into halftime by reeling off six points in the final 14 seconds of the period to take a 38-35 halftime advantage.

However, that momentum vanished when the Stags returned to the court, as Niagara scored 45 second-half points on 52 percent shooting from the floor. The Stags stayed right with the Purple Eagle attack by pounding the ball inside to junior Oscar Garcia, who went 4-6 from the floor, scoring nine second half points, as Niagara got into foul trouble down the stretch.

“I saw that we needed to step up out there,” Garcia said. “Being a junior on this team, I huddled my teammates and told them what to do.”

The turning point in the game came with 35 seconds remaining in the second half, when senior Ajou Deng forced a pass inside that went astray, resulting in a Niagara possession.

“Looking back, I would have shot the ball. I was wide open,” Deng said.

The Purple Eagles’ capitalized on outside shooting one last time when Mike Schmidt hit a three-pointer with just over five seconds remaining in the game, giving Niagara it’s tenth win of the season.

The game saw several lead changes, acrobatic circus-like shooting, buzzer-beating lay-ups, and also the Stags’ mascot getting penalized, resulting in a Niagara point mid-way through the second half.

“That was big,” O’Toole said as his head dropped in disgust. “I’ve never seen anything like that. I’ve never heard of that before.”

Fairfield was led by Ajou Deng’s 20 points and eight rebounds and Deng Gai’s 14 points and three blocked shots.

“This was a big game for us,” Deng said. “But now you can’t do anything about it. We have seven conference games to go-we got to go out there and win.”

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