After a compelling 2015-16 campaign that saw Fairfield post the fourth best turnaround in Division I basketball with 19 wins last year, the Stags are ringing in the new year looking like a team poised for Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference supremacy.
The Stags stand at 8-5 overall, sitting at second place in the conference standings with a 3-1 record. On the season, the Stags claimed some impressive non-conference wins on the docket, taking down Atlantic Coastal Conference foe Boston College and Wagner College, who earned a berth in last year’s National Invitational Tournament.
Once Fairfield said goodbye to 2016 and entered the heart of MAAC play on Jan. 2 against Iona, it was clear that the Stags wanted to send a message to the reigning conference tournament champions. The red and white led for over 36 minutes in the contest to the tune of a convincing 93-87 win at Webster Bank Arena. Led by a breakout performance from Matija Milin ‘19 with a career-high 21 points and nine boards, five different Stags finished the game in double figures.
Three days later the team made the trip to Riverdale, N.Y. to face off with Manhattan College in a game that would turn out to exhibit one of the best individual performances in Fairfield basketball history. In what looked like a video game performance, shooting guard Curtis Cobb ‘19 lit up Draddy Gymnasium with a Fairfield single-game record of 46 points in the Stags resounding 97-79 victory. Cobb was remarkably efficient on the night, knocking down 9 of his 12 three-pointers and 16 of his 23 shots taken total.
With incredible individual performances aside, the two wins have shown just how dominant Fairfield can be when firing on all cylinders. Being smart with the ball, playing pressure defense, and of course playing at a fast pace have been keys to the Stags success in the New Year thus far. Furthermore, it is their balanced offensive attack that forces opposing defenses to worry about multiple potent scorers.
Junior Tyler Nelson leads the conference in scoring at 19.7 points per game while Cobb stands at fifth in the league at 17.2 points per contest. Point guard Jerome Segura ‘18 fits into the fourth spot in assists per game in the MAAC at 4.8 helpers per contest. And not to be forgotten, graduate student Amadou Sidibe leads the MAAC in rebounding at 10.2 boards per game, which unquestionably leads to more opportunities on the offensive end.
Without a doubt it has been an exciting start to the 2016-17 season for the red and white. Fairfield has its best roster in years and should contend for both a regular season title and tournament championship come March. But until then, the gauntlet that is MAAC play continues on and resumes tomorrow night when Canisius comes to town for their first of two meetings with the Stags. Keep an eye out for Fairfield basketball for the next two months and do not be surprised if the wins start to pile up.