On Monday, Oct. 24 the Fairfield University Men’s Basketball team opened its doors to the visiting Hofstra Pride for an exhibition game at the friendly confines of Alumni Hall. Although it was only the first game of the season for the Stags, where they came out victorious by a final score of 94-78, the game had much more importance than that. It served as a charity game with all of the proceeds going to Save the Children, a Fairfield based organization whose main objective is to help those who are dealing with recent hurricanes and their aftermath for victims of hurricane Harvey and Maria.
This exhibition game had a special place in the hearts of the Fairfield faithful most especially point guard Jerome Segura ‘18 and Jesus Cruz ‘21, as Segura hails from Houston and Cruz is from Puerto Rico. “We know that Jerome and Jesus have been personally affected. I think it is meaningful to these guys as we talk about being men for others. This team really wants to practice that,” said head coach Sydney Johnson. “I am proud how this team really embraced this by caring for each other and respecting each other and trying to extend this to those in need, especially their teammates Jerome and Jesus. I think this was important for all involved to show their desire to help people out there. Save The Children is going to help out a lot of folks and we are glad to be a part of that outreach.”
The start of the game saw both Fairfield and Hofstra’s potential on offense as both teams were clicking, with ball movement and efficient shooting from both the field and the three-point line. Fairfield would go on to shoot 50 percent from the field and 61.5 percent from beyond the arc, while Hofstra shot just under 45 percent from the field in just the first half of play. For the Stags, Tyler Nelson ‘18 led all scorers with 22 points, including 5-5 from beyond the arc in the first half. “Tyler’s really picked up a lot of things and is really committed to making this team better,” said Johnson of his senior’s early leadership. At the end of the first period of play, the Stags held a slim 50-47 lead over Hofstra.
The second half of basketball was all Stags as they controlled the tempo on both sides of the floor from the beginning of the half. Just three minutes into the start of the second half, the Stags increased their lead to 15 as Hofstra was struggling to contain Fairfield’s combined shooting of Nelson, Matija Milin ‘19 and rookies Ferron Flavors Jr. ‘21 and Cruz as they all scored over 10 points each.
Fairfield would go on to dominate Hofstra for the remainder of the game as the Stags kept connecting on shots from the field while playing lockdown defense, limiting the Pride offense in the second half. The Stags would hold their largest lead of the game with two minutes remaining in the game when Hofstra trailed by 18 points. Fairfield would close the game out, coming out victorious by a final score of 94-78 over Hofstra. “We’ve worked hard, I think our team chemistry is as good as it’s ever been since I’ve been coaching. It says that they’ve bought into what we’re trying to do as a group and I think everybody’s all in,” said Johnson.
For Fairfield, Nelson led all scorers with a total of 30 points, including six shots from beyond the arc. “He’s our it guy, he’s the one that we have a lot of confidence in offensively and defensively. He’s improved leaps and bounds,” said Johnson.
Milin had himself a game as well as he finished with 22 points while grabbing eight rebounds. The fresh faces of the Stags also contributed to Monday’s win as Flavors Jr. finished with 16 in his first collegiate game while Cruz added 12 for the Stags in his debut. “Obviously they have a bit of an ability to put the ball in the basket, we certainly need that, that’s why we recruited them,” said Johnson on his rookies. “They knew exactly the role that they were here to play within what we do, I think they’re really good pieces. They’re really, really coachable and they want to be here.” Fairfield will continue to prepare for the beginning of the season as they host one more exhibition game on Friday, Nov. 3 as they welcome in-state rival, the University of Bridgeport Purple Knights, in Alumni Hall at 7 p.m.