The Fairfield University men’s basketball team played host to Quinnipiac University on Thursday, March 2, in its last regular season home-game of the season in front of a loud and energetic Leo D. Mahoney Arena crowd. The Stags closed out their inaugural campaign in their new barn with a bang, toppling the Bobcats, 92-82 in a back-and-forth game that swung in favor of the Stags in the latter part of the second half.
Leading the charge for the Stags was forward Supreme Cook ‘24, who had arguably his most dominant performance as a Stag. Cook knocked down a career-high 26 points to go along with three rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Cook has been an X-factor for the Stags this season, with his towering 6’9 stature being a condescending presence in the paint on both sides of the court. That night, he found himself on the scoresheet more often than he ever had and led his team in points in the process. He additionally shot 12-for-15 from the floor, or an .800 field goal percentage, a season high.
When asked about his dominant performance, Cook didn’t hesitate to praise his teammates, in particular the seniors, for their rock-steady leadership and support.
“It meant a lot to me,” Cook stated in the post-game press conference when asked about his stellar performance. “It meant more to me to send my seniors off the right way. I thank my teammates for putting me in a great position to score and I owe them that. So I just want to thank them for putting me in that position.”
“When my guards are hitting shots, it opens up the floor for me. It gives me a little more room to make my moves and as long as they’re hitting shots, I think I will be able to kind of do my own thing.”
Joining Cook in a major way was graduate student guard Caleb Fields, who sank five three-pointers en route to 21 points. Fields has also benefited from being a key player for the Stags this season, as his 21 points tied a season-best in which he hit two previous times against Marist and Evansville earlier this year. Four out of Fields’ five three-point buckets came in the first half, enabling the Stags to capitalize control over their in-state rivals out of the gate by heading into halftime with a five-point advantage. Fields also shot five-for-eight from behind the arc while dishing out four assists, collecting three rebounds and committing two steals.
Fields, a graduate student who came to Fairfield after spending his undergraduate years at Bowling Green State University, made sure to credit players such as forward Zach Crisler ‘23, and guards Mark Henry ‘23 and Jack Mullaly ‘23, individuals who do not often appear in game action, for their dedication and commitment to ensuring success for their teammates.
“Dudes like Zach, Mark and Jack, they just come to practice every day,” Fields explained. “When I came here, I transferred from Bowling Green, and they just took me in and they’re great leaders and have a big passion for the game. Even though they know they’re not going to play that much, it just shows how much you know that they really care.”
Furthermore, forward Allan Jeanne-Rose ‘23 had himself a career night. His 18 points were a season-best and he made his presence known beneath the rim, collecting nine rebounds, falling just short of a double-double. Jeanne-Rose collected most of his points from his dominance at the free-throw line, shooting 12-for-14 in the process. He also shot 3-for-4 from the field, with his high shooting rates being instrumental in the high-powered offensive performance for the herd.
Additional contributors in the win included guard TJ Long ‘25, who was the fourth Stag to reach double digits in points with 10. Guard Jake Wojcik ‘23 and forward Makai Willis ‘25 each recorded seven and six points, respectively, while guard Jalen Leach ‘24 came up big late in the fourth quarter. While only recording four points, his two buckets proved to be vital in sealing the deal for the Stags down the stretch.
“Just really proud of the guys, obviously, we had a very historic offensive rank for us,” head coach Jay Young stated in the post-game press conference. “We matched up well against a well-coached team in Quinnipiac, who has a lot of offensive weapons and are difficult to guard. I’m just proud of everyone who checked into the game tonight.”
The historic offensive rank Young was referring to in this contest was the fact that the 92 points scored by Fairfield tied for the most points scored by the program against a fellow Division I opponent since a 102-98 double-overtime victory over Quinnipiac on Feb. 17, 2018. The last time Fairfield broke triple digits in points in regulation occurred in a 104-85 triumph over Niagara on Jan. 20, 2018.
As a unit, the Stags shot a season-high .552 from the field (32-for-58) to go along with a staggering .833 percentage (20-for-24) from the free-throw line. Both of these metrics outdueled Quinnipiac, who shot .474 from the field (27-for-57) and .792 (19-for-24) from the free-throw line. Moreover, Fairfield won the rebounding battle, bringing down 33 boards in comparison to the Bobcats’ 28. They also limited the turnover game, only committing nine turnovers in contrast to Quinnipiacs’ 12, which played a deciding factor in the contest.
Prior to the contest, the Stags honored their five seniors on the active roster: Crisler, Henry, Jeanne-Rose, forward Chris Maidoh ‘23, Mullaly and Wojcik. Each player was ushered onto the court by their loved ones, who were then presented with gifts from Young and Fairfield University President Mark Nemec. Student managers Charles Assetta and John Martin, both seniors, were also honored in the Senior Night festivities. After all players and student managers were introduced to the Red Sea, they were joined by their loved ones, coach Young and President Nemec for a group picture.
“For us to send our seniors off the right way to close out the new building for the year was successful,” coach Young said. “More importantly, you want to be in a good frame of mind when you go on that bus and head to Atlantic City. So it was a good way to close out the building for the year.”
With the win, Fairfield improves its record to 13-17 overall to go along with a 9-11 conference record. The Stags will travel to Atlantic City, N.J., to participate in the 2023 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) tournament as the seventh seed. They will participate in the first round on Tuesday, March 7 against Saint Peter’s University at 7 p.m. For more information on the Fairfield men’s basketball team and Fairfield athletics as a whole, please visit www.fairfieldstags.com for more information.