Yuri Sendzimir/The Mirror

The Fairfield Men’s basketball team survived a furious second-half rally with conference foe Loyola Sunday at Harbor Yard by a 65-55 score.

The Stags opened up their 2010-2011 MAAC campaign with a home win, but it was far from smooth sailing.

Coming out like a house on fire, Fairfield put arguably its best 20 minutes of basketball together in the opening frame.

The defensive intensity was off the charts, the offense smooth and balanced, and head coach Ed Cooley seemed very content with his squad.  The Stags led 35-16.

However, Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos did something during that intermission to fire up his troops. Loyola came out with a full court press and some deft three point shooting to reestablish the contest.

The 19 point halftime advantage gradually dwindled.  The small band of Loyola supporters became louder and louder as the Greyhounds stormed back.

At one point, Loyola cut the Stags lead to 47-46.  However, that was as close as they would come to capturing the lead on this day.

Peter Caty/The Mirror

Ryan Olander ’12, who recorded a monster double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds, took control in the paint and from the foul line to push the Stags lead back up to double digits.

Olander and Derek Needham ’13 led the Stags’ effort with 14 points apiece while Yorel Hawkins ’11 had a very strong game with 13 points of his own.

While the Stags showed some great glimpses of their potential, the key will be finding the ability to produce consistent performances to replicate the first half effort.

Nevertheless, a win on your home court to start conference play is nothing to frown upon, and hopefully the first of many this season.

The Stags took on the Howard University Bison last night in front of a near sell-out at Alumni Hall.  The game marked the only one on campus for which school will be in session this year.

Fairfield controlled the tempo throughout the game and ended up with a comfortable 20-point win by a 72-52 tally.

The Stags came out strong with early dunks from senior swingman Yorel Hawkins and sophomore guard Colin Nickerson.

A respectable student section cheered on every move by their heroes.  Some of the most die-hard Stag enthusiasts sported painted faces – one even showed up in a full “red man” suit.

Fairfield controlled the tempo throughout the first half which ended with the Stags taking a 36-24 advantage into the intermission.

Unlike Sunday, there would be no let down or furious come back for the visitors in the second half.

Hawkins came out showing a deft touch from mid-range and the charity stripe alike.

It was a breakout game for the senior swingman in which he posted 16 points and 5 rebounds.  Yorel attacked the glass on both ends and showed tenacity on the defensive end.

Maurice Barrow ’14 also produced a noteworthy performance as he compiled 10 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and three steals.

Greg Nero showed flashes of his old self with six points and a block in the opening half.  Needham had seven points and 13 assists while Nickerson chipped in with 11 points on a variety of strong drives to the basket throughout.

The victory gives the Stags some momentum as they head into arguably the toughest part of their schedule this season.

One of the biggest games of the year beckons this Friday as the Stags travel to Albany to take on the three-time defending MAAC champion, the Siena Saints.

This is a chance to make an early statement that can resonate throughout the conference.

Siena is off to a rocky start, sporting a 2-5 record at press time but will be sure to defend their home court strongly in a rematch of last year’s MAAC Championship game.  Preseason MAAC player of the year Ryan Rossitter is off to a particularly strong beginning of the season.

After the Siena game, the Stags will travel to Worcester, Mass to take on Holy Cross in what is an annual chippy game.

Former Stags point guard Jon Han left the matchup two years ago with a bloodied face, and the game is sure to be played at a high level of intensity.

Looking ahead, the Stags’ most daunting trip of the year will undoubtedly be the December 28 trip to Gainesville, Florida to take on the University of Florida.

While the remainder of December brings many tough challenges for the Fairfield Men’s basketball team, the current four game win streak should be a sign that the team is starting to come together after the rocky start.

The Stags’ next tipoff against the Siena Saints this Friday in Albany, NY at 7:30 p.m.

Player of the Week: Yorel Hawkins who looks to have found his form of old as the Stags head into the meat of their schedule.

Play of the week: Hawkins’ thunderous two-hand flush off an alley-oop from Derek Needham sent Alumni Hall into a frenzy as the Stags took down Howard.

What to watch for: Some of the toughest games of the season coming up: at Siena, at Holy Cross, home vs. Vermont, and at University of Florida.

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