The Fairfield University men’s basketball team got two big wins this past weekend against Quinnipiac University on Friday and Siena College on Sunday. The Quinnipiac game was played at M&T Bank Arena, with a final score of 85-81. The Siena game was played at home in the Leo D. Mahoney Arena, with a final score of 88-64. 

Additionally, Quinnipiac (19-8, 11-5 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) lost for a second time this past weekend, falling to Rider University (12-16, 9-8 MAAC) 78-88. The Stag’s (18-10, 12-5 MAAC) blowout win over Siena (4-23, 3-13 MAAC) now puts them at first place in the MAAC. 

One more thing to note is that Fairfield’s win over Quinnipiac also now gives them the tiebreaker over the Bobcats. This could prove to be very crucial for the future playoff seedings.

The game against Quinnipiac was an instant MAAC classic. The game was hard fought, and at no point in the game could one tell who was going to come out on top. 

Fairfield was led by guard Jalen Leach ‘24, who racked up 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Leach was backed up by fellow guard, graduate student Caleb Fields who finished with 19 points and 5 assists. 

Graduate student Matt Balanc led the Bobcats with 23 points and 9 rebounds. Junior guard Doug Young added 17 points of his own in the losing effort. 

On Friday night, it was made very clear to the Stags that they were not welcome in the arena. A decent amount of Fairfield fans made the trip up to Hamden, but there was a lot of blue and gold in the stands that night. 

Junior forward Birima Seck helped set the tone early on the defensive end. On Quinnipiac’s first possession of the game, Seck stole the ball from guard Savion Lewis. This was the first of the Stag’s ten steals on the night.

The game was a very close affair throughout the entire game, as neither team could pull away from the other. Leach knocked down his first three-pointer of the night at the 15-minute mark to give Fairfield an early nine-point lead. 

However, this would be the largest lead of the game for either team. The Bobcats would slowly but surely cut Fairfield’s lead down, and from then on it was a back-and-forth scramble. 

Quinnipiac’s Amarri Tice hit a last-second three-pointer to tie the game up at 39 a piece going into the half. The second half was when the game really started to heat up. 

The Stags were moving the ball well in the second half. On one possession, Fields was doubled, but he kept his eyes up and hit Seck with a nice pass for a wide-open slam dunk. 

Quinnipiac came out shooting hot to start the second half, but a series of steals and nice shots from Fairfield kept the game close. With just under 10 minutes left to play in the game, the score was 61-57 in favor of Quinnipiac. 

The Bobcats were looking to pull away from the Stags, and a steal from Lewis gave Quinnipiac a fast-break opportunity to do just that. However, guard Brycen Goodine ‘24 came up from behind and got a monster block, spiking the ball off the backboard and into Leach’s hands. Leach pushed the ball up the court by himself and got a transition bucket with a nice finish at the rim. 

A big factor in this game was the rebounds, especially on the offensive boards. Part of the reason the game was as close as it was was due to both teams rebounding effectively and getting second chances on offense. 

Interim Head Coach Chris Casey echoed this sentiment after the game. “I thought they came up with some offensive rebounds in the second half that we needed to dig out,” said Casey. Still, though, the Stags got some good boards of their own, so they “didn’t get hurt badly on the glass” according to Coach Casey. 

The game ultimately came down to the wire. With just three minutes left in the game, Fairfield held onto a six-point lead (76-70), but Quinnipiac would not go down easily. 

At this point in the game, with time winding down, Quinnipiac needed to make a play. Unfortunately, however, in the final two minutes of play, Balanc turned the ball over on two consecutive possessions, which proved to be very costly. 

After this, Quinnipiac could do little but foul and watch as Fairfield made their free throws to effectively put the game out of reach. 

One of the big highlights of this game was that it got flexed to ESPNU, a nationwide sports channel that reaches millions of Americans. After the game, the team seemed particularly excited about the big win.

 I spoke with Leach after the game and we discussed how it felt to get such a big win on national television. “It feels great,” said Leach, “…and they’re the number one team, so it’s a great feeling for our team.”

The game against the Siena Saints was relatively less eventful. The Stags won in commanding fashion, taking care of business in a 24-point blowout.

Leach led the Stags once again with 21 points and 9 rebounds. Goodine came off the bench and the senior guard added 15 points of his own. 

Siena’s scoring was led by Mason Courtney and Brendan Coyle who each finished with 13 points. 

Fairfield also shot 49% from the field, and 48% from three-point range. When compared to Siena’s 39 percent FG% and 23 percent 3P%, it’s easy to see how the game got so out of hand for the Saints. 

The first half was a bit slow, with an initial back and forth. Fairfield began to pull away after the first ten minutes of play, going into halftime with an eight-point lead. 

The Stags would really open up the game in the second half, scoring 55 of their total points in the second half. Fairfield never looked back and showed why they’re at the top of the conference. 

The Stags have now won three games in a row and six out of their last seven. The MAAC is very tightly contested this year, and the Stags seem to be getting hot at just the right time. 

The next game for the men’s basketball team will be this Friday against Marist at 7 p.m. in the McCann Arena. The game will also be streaming on ESPN+. 

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