Sean Crawford (12) drives against Siena's Edwin Ubiles during the MAAC Championship game. Crawford returns next year with a talented Stags squad. (Chris Simmons/The Mirror)

After a 27 point comeback over George Mason in the opening round of the College Tournament (CIT), the Fairfield men’s basketball team seemed poised for a remarkable post-season run. But a matchup with Creighton, who have 12 consecutive winning seasons and six NCAA tournament trips in the past 10 years, proved to be too much for Fairfield.

The Stags lost to their fellow Jesuit school 73-55 at Creighton, ending the season for Fairfield.

The Stags had already taken Siena to the wire and battled back against George Mason, on the round in Vienna, Virginia. Combine that with a trip to Omaha, Nebraska to take on Creighton in an arena where the Bluejays have a 13-3 record, was a recipe for a season-ending loss.

Fairfield had the lead, 38-37, with 13:55 to play after Derek Needham buried his second three-pointer of the game. But Creighton quickly went on an 8-0 run, led by three-pointers from Antoine Young and Justin Carter to take a lead that the Bluejays would not relinquish again.

“That was game over,’’ Head coach Ed Cooley said to Bluejays Today, part of “I thought we showed some great emotion coming out of halftime, and we made some adjustments that changed the game but we couldn’t sustain it because of the energy level. It was a different game the first five minutes of the second half.

“But they made shots. That’s what they do. Our whole concept coming into today was to make them make tough 2s, but when you get uncontested shots from a team that shoots the 3 as well as they do, guys get comfortable. And that’s what happened,” Cooley added.

Needham finished the game with 15 points on 6-for-18 shooting. Senior Anthony Johnson finished his career with a 19 point, 17 rebound effort. Fellow senior Mike Evanovich, who scored a career-high 31 points and a school record nine three-pointers in the victory over George Mason, was held to only three points as Creighton played tight defense on him all game long.

Junior Lyndon Jordan scored eight points and pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds, including five on the offensive boards and freshman Colin Nickerson finished his first season and strong run down the stretch with six points.

Creighton outrebounded Fairfield 41-35 for the night.

Fairfield shot 20-for-60 (33.3 percent) from the field, 3-for-14 (21.4 percent) from three-point range and 12-of-15 (80 percent) at the free throw line.

The Stags will now look towards next season, as Cooley will return all but Johnson and Evanovich. He expects to have forwards Warren Edney, who did not play this season, and Yorel Hawkins, who spent two stints out of action with an injury, including both the MAAC Tournament and the CIT.  Needham will return for his sophomore year after becoming just the fourth player in school history to score 500 points in a season.

In addition, Cooley is bringing in another talented recruiting class, led by Florida natives Keith Matthews and Adam Jones, who is being raised by Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers and his family. Both Matthews and Jones should contribute immediately.  Joining the two from the Sunshine State is guard Jamel Fields, from Albany, who will be able to backup Needham.

Fairfield finished the season with a 23-11 record, one less than the school record of 24, set by the 1985-86 Stags, who were coached by Mitch Buonaguro and led by captains Tony George and former head coach Tim O’Toole.

The Stags will look forward also to hosting the MAAC Tournament at the Arena at Harbor Yard, providing a home court advantage held by the Siena Saints the past three seasons.

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