In case you were wondering what happened in Fairfield basketball since you left for semester break in December, they got a low post game.

After being re-instated by the university from a suspension that kept him out for the entire fall semester, DeWitt Maxwell ’06 returned to the lineup, and he brought company in the form of 6’6″ forward Mamadou Diakhate ’07, who had to sit out a year after transferring to Fairfield last December from Eastern Kentucky.

Without them, and with junior forward Marty O’Sullivan sidelined with a knee injury, sophomore center Geoff Middleton was the only player in the lineup taller than 6’4″ and the Stags often had no low post presence on offense or defense.

In the eight games Maxwell and Diakhate have played so far, there has certainly been a noticeable difference, although that difference was not extremely evident in the Stags’ 91-72 blowout loss to Marist last Friday.

Maxwell and Diakhate entered the lineup for the first time on Dec. 30 at Cal State Northridge, and the results were seen immediately. Maxwell had 13 points and six rebounds, and the Stags won for just the second time all year.

The next time out, Maxwell, who is just 6’5″ but often out-maneuvers taller players under the boards and was the Stags’ second leading rebounder a year ago (Deng Gai ’05 was first), dominated Siena, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds as the Stags won their first league game.

Despite playing in just half of the Stags’ games (eight out of 16), Maxwell had 49 rebounds coming into Tuesday’s game at Loyola, placing him just six behind guard Terrance Todd ’06 for first on the team. He led the team at week’s end in rebounds per game at 6.1 and is second to Todd with 10.8 points per game.

That, combined with 4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game from Diakhate, as well as the increased playing time and improved play of Middleton, has generally made the Stags competitive in the low post. This wasn’t the case Friday, however, when Marist big men James Smith (18 points, career high 13 rebounds) and Ryan Stilphen (13 points) dominated the boards and did their part to put the Stags away early in the game.

Still though, despite Head Coach Tim O’Toole’s unhappiness with the Stags’ overall play and inability get offensive rebounds at Marist (the Stags were out-rebounded 40-29), the team is 4-4 with Maxwell and Diakhate in the lineup, after going 1-7 without them.

What direction the team goes in – whether it is toward the top or the bottom of the MAAC standings – will be contingent upon their performances down the stretch.

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