Sam Noblett/The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Courtesy of Fairfield Sports Information:

Yorel Hawkins scored a game-high 17 points, including 10 of the final 11 points, to help the Fairfield University men’s basketball team defeat Colorado State University 62-60 in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). The Stags will play Kent State in their second round match-up.

Fairfield won its second NIT game in program history with the result, the last coming during the 1973 NIT. The Stags knocked off Marshall University by an 80-76 decision in that tournament, and ended a five-game losing streak in the NIT.

The Stags played the Rams closely throughout the first half, taking their first lead off a three-point play by Ryan Olander for a 3-2 edge in the opening two minutes. Colorado State put together six straight points to take an 8-3 lead, the team’s biggest advantage of the first half. The team made four of its first five shot attempts which allowed it to take that lead.

Fairfield’s defense clamped down after Head Coach Ed Cooley called a time out at the 17:25 mark. From that point, the visitors surrendered only eight points over the next eight minutes and forced nine turnovers in the first 12 minutes. The Stags played off those turnovers and began to find the offensive flow during that stretch.

Colorado State scored the final three points of the half with a Smith jumper and a Travis Franklin free throw that made the score 31-29 at intermission. Smith led all Ram scorers with seven points by halftime, while Olander finished the first 20 minutes with 10 points.

The Rams scored the first basket of the half, but the Stags came back with a 6-0 run that put them back in the lead at 35-33 with 16:16 remaining. Hawkins scored four of those points and Derek Needham started the run with a driving layup. Pierce Hornung tied the game 18 seconds later, but Needham made another run at the hoop to regain the lead at 37-35.

Fairfield still owned a two-point edge at 45-43 at the 12 minute mark, but that went away after Andre McFarland hit his second three pointer of the game to push Colorado State back in front at 46-45 at the 8:44 mark. Needham took that lead away with a three-point shot that also pushed him over the 1,000-point mark for his career, making the score 48-46. Colorado State came within a point several times over the next three minutes, but the Stags always answered to keep that three-point lead intact.

The Stags finally added to that lead when Hawkins netted a jumper at that made the score 57-52 with 2:53 remaining. The Rams tallied the next four points, the last coming off a Ogide breakaway dunk that made it a one-point game at 57-56 with 1:32 remaining. Hawkins gave the Stags a three-point cushion when his foul-line jumper beat the shot clock for a 59-56 edge with 59 seconds left.

The Rams made things very interesting when Dorian Green was fouled on a three-point attempt with eight seconds left to make the score 61-60. Needham was fouled on the inbound pass and made one of two free throws for a two-point advantage with five seconds left.

The Stags were outrebounded in the game by a 52-30 count, but limited the Rams to just 11 second-chance points. Meanwhile, Fairfield had a 20-8 edge in turnovers, and committed just three miscues in the second half.

Ryan Olander tallied a double double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Needham added 10 points to the cause. Andy Ogide scored 13 points to pace the Colorado State offense, while Greg Smith collected 15 rebounds.

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