On Saturday, Nov. 9 at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn., the Fairfield University men’s basketball team (0-2) fell to the University of Massachusetts Amherst Minutemen (2-0) by a score of 62-60. It was a hard fought game, but in the end the Stags came up short again, losing another close game.
Fairfield’s team and newly appointed head coach Jay Young’s motto so far this year has been, “Next game, next opponent.”
Sitting with a defeated overall record of 0-2 to begin the season, Coach Young isn’t going to let this heartbreaking start to the season distract him and his team from their mantra.
Fairfield started off slow right out of the gate, but with five minutes left in the first half they turned it around. Junior Wassef Methnani was the key cog in shifting the momentum, as he ran the floor and scored, absorbing hard contact for the “and one” layup. On the very next play he drew a crucial charge, and this defensive stop was vital for the team’s comeback.
That sequence ignited the team as they went on a big run behind the scoring of Jesus Cruz ‘21 and Landon Taliaferro ‘20, who had 14 and 15 points for the game respectively. Fairfield ended up taking the lead from UMass and went into the half with a seven point lead and a score of 31- 24.
UMass came into the season with a lot of expectations. They have the top recruiting class in their conference, the Atlantic 10, and a top 50 recruiting class in the whole nation. They were projected to be a tough matchup for Fairfield, but the Stags rose to the occasion and did not allow UMass to roll over them. Not only were they competitive, but Fairfield could smell blood.
The Stags came out firing and scored on their opening play of the second half. They managed to extend the lead to as much as 10 points, and for the first four minutes of the second half, they looked poised to earn their first win of the season. UMass was resilient and hung around long enough before going on their inevitable run to get back into the game.
Down the stretch, it was a very close and entertaining game as neither side was letting up. Although UMass was pushing the pace to the tune of a 16-2 advantage on fastbreak points, Fairfield managed to make it a half court game during crunchtime. The Minutemen hit timely shot after timely shot, but Fairfield was still in position to tie or take the lead on their final possession. Taliaferro, who had been shooting the ball well all game, created some space off the inbound play, but just missed as UMass escaped.
It was a very tough loss for the Stags because they had a good lead and a chance to win at the end. On the other hand, they went toe-to-toe with a quality opponent, and could easily be (2-0) instead of (0-2) right now.
This has to be an encouraging sign for the Fairfield faithful that maybe this new regime will bring life to this program. Coach Young insists that he and his players only has eyes for the next team on their schedule, and improving everyday. The Stags will look to get back on track on the road Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 7:00 p.m. against the College of the Holy Cross (0-2).