The number one team in the women’s Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the Fairfield University Stags, hosted the second place Quinnipiac University Bobcats this past Friday, Feb. 17, in a game that lived up to all the hype.
Fairfield got off to a great start, hitting their shots on offense and limiting a strong Bobcats offense to just 13 points in the first quarter. While this Fairfield team has been a juggernaut on the attacking end, head coach Joe Frager has been more impressed with their defense.
“We work hard to try and to get better defensively throughout the year and you know, I don’t think we win last night’s game if it wasn’t for our defense,” said Frager. “I classify last night’s game as sort of a rock fight, not the prettiest thing in the world. It’s going to come down to stops and rebounding and I think that this is a group that’s really committed.”
After a first quarter controlled by the Stags, the Bobcats slowly crept their way back, bringing the game within three points at halftime, with a score of 31-28 Fairfield.
While Fairfield never failed to give up the lead the entire game, Quinnipiac would simply not go away, successfully keeping the lead within five points throughout the entire game.
With Quinnipiac in striking distance, all they needed was a late run to get some momentum, and that was exactly what they got at the end of the fourth quarter.
After a Sam Lewis ‘22 three pointer to extend the lead to 52-48, Quinnipiac would answer with back to back baskets, tying the game with 58 seconds left in the game. Fairfield would have two offensive chances to win the game but would ultimately fail to convert.
The game was heading to OT and the Stags were in the same spot they were against Canisius College, where they were able to muscle out a big win.
The Bobcats started the overtime period the same way they ended the fourth, capping off the first basket of extra time with a basketball to take a two-point lead.
This would be the only lead Quinnipiac would take, as Lou Lopez-Senechal ‘22 tied the game with a jumper just moments later. The Stags would sink five of their next six free throws to seal a 54-49 victory.
Graduate student Callie Cavanuagh led the Stags with an amazing performance, securing a double-double with 17 points and ten rebounds. Senior Rachel Hakes had a game-high eight assists and also scored ten points in a strong performance on both ends of the court.
Senior Andrea Hernangomez joined two of her fellow Stags in double figures with 11 points and brought the usual energy we are all so accustomed to. Lopez-Senechal, the MAAC’s leading scorer was held in check by the Quinnipiac defense, finishing with just eight points on a 4-for-12 shooting.
While the France native had an off-night in terms of scoring, her teammates were there to pick her up and carry the load, which will be essential for Fairfield going forward into March.
“Credit to Quinnipiac, they just completely doubled and tripled every time she touched the ball and I thought she played a really good second half but obviously struggled in the first half and got some foul trouble, ” said Frager of Lopez-Senechal. “When that happens, others have to step up and we put three other players into double figures and make some big shots.”
With the win, the Stags clinched at least a share of the MAAC regular season title. This will be the program’s fourth overall and the first since the 2000-01 season.
The Stags are now 18-6 overall with a 15-1 record in the MAAC, a season Frager and his team should be proud of, no matter how the season finishes. By no means is he or his squad satisfied, as they will not be happy until they are holding the MAAC championship and claim a spot in the NCAA tournament.
The Stags will need to win just one of their remaining four games, or Quinnipiac needs to lose one of their remaining five to win the title outright.
Fairfield’s next game will be on Thursday, Feb. 24 against Monmouth at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. at 7:00 p.m. The Stags will have a long week of rest but will be eager to build on this title run. Show your support and Go Stags!