The Fairfield University men’s basketball team hosted the Canisius Golden Griffins at Alumni Hall this past weekend. They faced one of the best offensive teams in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in a doubleheader on Friday, Feb. 19 and Saturday, Feb. 20 on a historical stage that will not soon be forgotten in campus history.
Going into the series, the Stags had a record of 5-14 overall and 5-9 in the MAAC, while the Golden Griffins were 5-3 in the conference, as they played no outside conference games due to COVID-19 restrictions.
This doubleheader between the Stags and Golden Griffins marked the last home game played on George Bisacca Court at Alumni Hall. The court was built in 1959, and has been an iconic part of the Fairfield campus. The Stags looked to leave Alumni Hall on a positive note, with a big win against a well-rounded Canisius squad.
On Friday, Feb. 19, the Stags began the game with energy and defensive intensity. With the help of big men Supreme Cook ‘24 and Tshiefu Ngalakulondi ‘22, Fairfield took an 11 point lead 12-23, with 8:38 remaining in the half.
The Golden Griffins, a team accustomed to playing from behind this year, withstood Fairfield’s pressure, diminishing the deficit to only four points at the end of the half. The Griffins had a real strong contribution from their bench, with Majesty Brandon ‘21 and Malek Green ‘22 scoring a combined 12 points in the first half.
The momentum of the first half was quickly transitioned from the Stags to the Golden Griffins in the second, as the Stags struggled with turnovers (15) and became stagnant on offense. The Griffins took the lead with 14:21 remaining, and seemed to control the rest of the game. Canisius’ Green played the best second half of his life, scoring 19 points, finishing with 29, a career high.
The boost from Canisius’ bench, lack of offensive efficiency and turnovers were the downfall of the Stags and prevented them from getting a much needed win. The Stags came away with a tough loss of 80-69, giving the Griffins a chance to go on a six game win streak, which would be their largest winning streak in three years.
Saturday, Feb. 20, the Stags came into the matchup looking for revenge and to fix their offensive struggles. Thanks to Jesus Cruz ‘21, who scored 13 first half points off the bench, the Stags were able to maintain a comfortable lead going into the break at 33-21.
Along with Cruz, the Stags’ big men Zach Crisler ‘23, Cook and Chris Maidoh ‘23 dominated the paint, giving the Stags a big advantage on offense. They also caused many problems for the Golden Griffins on defense, as they were bothered on most shots inside and couldn’t find a rhythm on offense because of the pressure.
The Stags held one of the best offensive teams in the MAAC to only 53 points on 33 percent shooting, showing how committed the team is to coach Young’s system. The offense was also clicking on all cylinders for the Stags, causing the combination to be too much for the Griffins to handle.
The Stags won this battle 53-66, in a great overall team performance. Cruz led the Stags with 17 points and two steals off the bench. Along with Cruz, Jake Wojcik ‘22, leading scorer, had another solid game with 16 points. Green led the Golden Griffins with 14 points in another solid performance.
The Stags hosted a home game for the last time at Alumni Hall this past Saturday, and the team paid it tribute by ending with a dominant victory over a strong Canisius team. This win shows the resilience of this team, but also the true power it possesses.
When Fairfield is clicking on all levels, like they were on Saturday night, they are a tough team to beat. The Stags now have a record of 6-15 overall, and 6-10 in the MAAC.
The University plans to build an 85,000-square foot, 3,500-seat Convocation Center at the current site of Alumni Hall, projected to open in 2021.
The Stags will travel to New Jersey next to face the Monmouth Hawks on Feb. 26 at 5 p.m. The Stags will need to bring their best basketball game, as the Hawks are top of the MAAC and have a very dangerous team.