After experiencing a tough slate of games in the Old Spice Classic over Thanksgiving break, the Men’s Basketball bounced back this past weekend and went 2-0 in their MAAC contests.

The first match-up against the Niagara Purple Eagles proved to be a back and forth game in which the Stags were able to come out on top by a score of 79-75. While four Fairfield players scored in double figures, the season-high 19 points for senior guard Sean Crawford proved to be vital.

Coach Johnson was pleased by the efforts of Crawford as well as junior guard Derek Needham, who finished the game with 12 points.

“It’s easy to point out how Derek contributed statistically, but I was more so impressed by his leadership role and the focus he had on what we needed to do as a team,”
said Johnson. “Sean stayed within himself and can be a really dangerous weapon for us as he displayed against Niagara.”

The Stags finished the weekend on a high note with a 68-59 victory over the Canisius Golden Griffins. Needham and senior forward Rakim Sanders each had 19 points for the Stags, who were able to capitalize on Canisius’ careless play with 23 points off Golden Griffin turnovers.

Although these were the first regular season MAAC games for Coach Johnson, in his opinion the outcome of these games matched his initial expectations.

“It’s really just more of the same. The coaches and players from the MAAC conference are familiar with us and they are forcing us to not only focus mentally, but also to execute on a constant basis,” said Johnson.

Rakim Sanders has continued with his early-season success as he earned the MAAC Co-player of the week award, sharing it with Iona forward Mike Glover. Sanders averaged a double-double in the two Stag victories with 17.5 points and 11 rebounds.

However, Fairfield once again has to set its sights on out of conference competition against the likes of mid-major powerhouse Old Dominion, UNH, as well as the defending national champion UCONN Huskies. The next set of games will give the Stags another opportunity to burst onto the national college basketball scene.

Coach Johnson is well aware that his team is going to be met with challenges in the upcoming weeks and hopes the battle-tested Stags will respond accordingly.

“There are no pushovers in our tough schedule as we’ve experienced earlier in the season. There won’t be any breaks as we have to face a well-established Old Dominion team as well as a nationally respected UConn team,” said Johnson. “Hopefully it will make us stronger once we had back into MAAC play.”

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