Fairfield University Men’s Basketball team (2-6) braved the United States Military Academy (4-5) in West Point, NY on Saturday, Dec. 1. They returned from an 86-85 win against the University of Denver which finished off their West Coast trip. Our Stags put up a valiant fight, but ultimately the Black Knights captured a 63-60 victory.
Army’s Matt Wilson led all scorers, tallying 19 points and 9 rebounds. He was succeeded by Cadet John Emezie (16 points) and Fairfield’s Neftali Alvarez ’22 (14 points). At this game, Army Senior, Jordan Fox (9 points) reached 1,000 career points; an accomplishment reached by knocking down a foul shot late in the game. This is a feat that only 32 other players in program history have realized. Fairfield forward No. 15 Wassef Methnani ’21 was a key player for our Stags, registering 10 rebounds in addition to 12 points, completing the double double. The entirety of Methnani’s 12 points were scored during the second half, keeping the competition close.
A good layup by Matt Wilson in the paint established scoring just 39 seconds into play. Fairfield guard Taj Benning ’21 answered back under 60 seconds later, evening the score 2-2. This started a seven point scoring streak for Fairfield, comprised of a layup by forward Jonathan Kasibabu ’19 and a three pointer by star Jesus Cruz ‘21. Fairfield owned a five point lead just three minutes into the game. Army West Point responded strongly. In three minutes, our rivals claimed 13 unanswered points. This left Fairfield to fight to regain the lead with just under 14 minutes 30 seconds left in the half, down 15-7.
After some back and forth, Fairfield and Army were within two points of each other, and Cruz sunk two good free throws to tie the game at 17, just past the halfway mark of the first half. Following Cruz’s success, Army dominated, carrying out a 15 point scoring streak to again claim a lead. With 2 minutes and 54 seconds remaining in the half, Army obtained their largest lead yet (38-20), leaving Fairfield to make up for an 18 point deficit. Before the clock ran out, Fairfield managed to gain some ground but went into halftime losing 38-27.
Army West Point netted eight points, as Fairfield sunk further behind. With just half a quarter of play in the game left, our Stags made up for their shortfall and chipped away at Army’s advantage. First-year Calvin Whipple, Wassef Methnani ’21 and Jonathan Kasibabu ’19 all contributed to Fairfield’s nine point streak that kept them alive. Five of those pivotal nine were credited to Methnani. The Black Knights made six of their eight final free throws, which determined their fate as winners.
It was the and the fourth consecutive game, and the sixth game in the past eight where the outcome was decided within a three point margin. Fairfield will have the home court advantage on Thursday, Sept. 6 at 7 pm. They will face Oakland University (3-5), looking to earn their first home win at Alumni Hall this 2018-19 season.