This weekend was an important one for the Fairfield men’s basketball team.

After two losses to major conference teams, Providence and Boston College, the Stags began their MAAC schedule, taking on Manhattan and Canisius on Friday and Sunday nights.

Fairfield entered Friday night with a 2-9 record, but the games before the MAAC season essentially meant nothing.

Playing such an intense schedule over a short period had an effect on the Stags and it showed Friday night as they lost an ugly game to the Jaspers, 57-54.

Although the score makes the game appear close, it was not. Head Coach Ed Cooley called the game an “absolutely bad performance” and a “step in the wrong direction.”

Luckily for the Stags, they were able to bounce back and win on Sunday night, defeating Canisius 75-64, for their first double digit win of the season. With the win, they improved to 3-10 on the year and 1-1 in the MAAC. It was a victory that Fairfield needed heading into a 17 day break for exams and the holidays.

The game was played in front of a small crowd and an even smaller student section, which consisted of six students and Cooley’s nine-year-old son, Isaiah.

The Stags looked flat again to start the game, but this time bounced back with two big runs: a 17-2 run to end the first half and a 11-0 run during the middle of the second half that gave them the lead for good.

Senior guard Michael Van Schaick, who led the team in scoring against Canisius with 20 points and 10 against Manhattan, felt that the bounce back win was important for the team heading into the break, as it gave the Stags some momentum.

“It’s huge heading into the break,” he said. “I can finally sleep, I haven’t slept much, I have just been thinking about basketball all the time,” Van Schaick said.

The Stags continued their inconsistent play this weekend, showing two very different teams over the three days.

On Friday, had it not been for the poor play of Manhattan as well, the score would have been a lot worse.

Fairfield turned the ball over 18 times and shot 27.7 percent from the field. The Stags were especially bad from behind the three-point arc, shooting just 22.2 percent.

Fairfield had an opportunity to win, despite how poorly they played, but couldn’t come through.

“The team played with a lack of energy. They were not ready to play,” said Cooley, “I did a poor job preparing them. When they play a game like this, I am going to put the blame on myself.”

Despite the team’s struggles throughout the season, Cooley had always felt like something positive came out of the game.

Whether it was the improvement of the freshman, especially Greg Nero and Anthony Johnson, or the seniors stepping up, or less turnovers, Cooley always felt the Stags played better in at least one aspect in each game.

But after the Manhattan game, Cooley had an entirely different attitude.

“If there was a positive in this game, I thought that our assistant coaches were well dressed,” Cooley said. “We were terrible.”

Cooley’s frustration with the team’s play continued into the first 12 minutes of the Canisius game, and he was called for a technical foul six minutes into the game.

But his disgust quickly turned to pleasure, as his team battled back and showed the intensity that they needed to win.

The team was led by Anthony Johnson, who had a career-high 16 points, and the three seniors, Van Schaick, Danny Oglesby and Marty O’Sullivan, all of whom finished in double figures.

Van Schaick had a game-high 20 points. Crisp passing and good movement was the reason for Fairfield’s success.

According to Oglesby, the Stags “ran the offense well. On some plays we ran them as well as we do in practice, guys were wide open,” he said.

Cooley was pleased with the team’s defensive intensity against Canisius, which led to energy on the other end.

“I have been on our guys to play defense. It all starts with being active and energetic [on defense],” he said, “They turned the ball over 16 times and we scored a lot off of their turnovers. Defense is what won the game.”

The Stags bench helped bring energy to the game which they lacked in the Manhattan game. After Devin Johnson `10 separated his shoulder, Mamadou Diakhate came in and came up with a big play. He dove on the floor and made a key steal that capped the 17-2 first half run.

“Mamadou gets the game ball tonight,” Cooley said after the game.

Men’s Report Card: MAAC Homestand Edition By Keith Connors

Ball control: C The Stags had more turnovers than a sloppy playing Manhattan team on Friday and followed it up with a 20 turnover effort against Canisius on Sunday. Ouch. They got away with it on Sunday, but against the premier MAAC teams, 20 turnovers will likely result in a lost cause and another loss.

Bench Play: B+ One of the biggest developments this weekend was Fairfield’s improved depth of the bench. On Friday night the only positive may have been that the Stags got 29 points from reserve players. Similarly, they got 30 points from the role players coming off the bench. Herbie Allen has been a tremendous bench player, providing a much needed spark. Danny Ogelsby and Marty O’Sullivan are perfect reserves based on their experience. On Sunday, Mamadou Diakhate did a fantastic job playing defense, even though his stats might not show it.

Shot Selection: C+ Aside from their torrid streak in the Sunday game’s second half, the Stags were either forcing shots or too anxious to make another pass. They need to continue to work on working the offense. Most importantly, better ball control will lead to more scoring chances.

Overall: B- It wasn’t the greatest weekend in Fairfield’s history, but it ended nicely. Beating Canisius is a perfect way to head into the break. The Stags have played 13 games this year, tying them with Winston-Salem State University for the most in Division-1 ball. Needless to say, a break is much needed. With any luck they’ll come back ready, improved and prepared for MAAC play in the second half.

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