This past weekend, the Fairfield University Men’s basketball team competed in the Wright State Tournament in Dayton, Ohio. The Stags finished the weekend with a record of 1-2 after facing Athletic Sun Conference’s Jacksonville University, Big South Conference foe Gardner-Webb and the Horizon League’s Wright State. Although the Stags dropped two games in Dayton, there were plenty of bright spots for the Stags as many of its young players showed lots of potential.
The Stags started play on Friday, Nov. 24 when they faced off against the Jacksonville Dolphins in the first game of the Wright State Tournament. Fairfield’s slow start put them in an hole early in the game as they got themselves in a position that required them to battle back to the whole game. Jacksonville started the contest on a strong note by scoring 13 of the game’s first 15 points, giving them an early 13-2 advantage just five minutes into the start of play. Fairfield’s struggles would put them in a 21-point deficit as Jacksonville finished the first half leading 58-37. Although Fairfield faced a huge deficit heading into the second half, the Stags looked to battle back to cut the lead. After slow starts to the second half for both teams, the Stags started to find their groove on offense halfway through the the latter half of play. Fairfield went on a 10-5 run to cut the deficit down to 16, with just enough time remaining in the game for a Stags’ comeback. The Stags continued to connect on offense going on a separate 15-5 run to narrow the lead to just four points as Jacksonville’s lead was cut to 86-82 with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Unfortunately for the Stags, their comeback efforts were cut short as the Dolphins were able to connect on a couple of free throw opportunities to increase their lead as time continued to run out. Jacksonville would close out the game to pick up the 92-84 victory over Fairfield, giving the Stags their first loss of the weekend.
Senior Tyler Nelson lead the way for the Stags scoring a team-high 28 points, four from three-point land while rookie Ferron Flavors Jr. ‘20 scored 20 points, five coming from beyond the arc. Junior Jonathan Kasibabu also reached double digits in scoring as he added 13 points for Fairfield.
Fairfield bounced back to even their record at 1-1 in the Wright State Tournament after defeating the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs by a score of 75-64 on Saturday, Nov. 25 behind Nelson’s 26 points, his second consecutive game scoring 25 points or more in a game. The Stags’ key to this victory was conservative defense and great passing from all of their players. Fairfield finished the game with a total of 19 assists which led to 26 baskets. Fairfield’s defense was on full display as they forced Gardner-Webb to commit 19 turnovers and nine steals to help the Stags score 20 points off turnovers.
Much like the previous game, the Stags got off to a slow start as the opposing Runnin’ Bulldogs came out the gates scoring, putting Fairfield at an early deficit. Despite facing an early deficit, the Stags were able to battle back to cut the lead and eventually take the lead. First-year Jesus Cruz capped a 10-4 run after connecting on a three-point play opportunity with less than 14 minutes remaining in the game to give the Stags their first lead of the game at 15-14.
First-year Kevin Senghore-Peterson converted a layup to give the Stags the slim three-point lead and from there, Fairfield would never relinquish the lead. Fairfield would close out the first half on a 15-4 run to give them a 44-29 lead heading into the halftime.
Although never relinquishing the lead, Gardner-Webb had a couple of moments in the second half that saw them cut the lead to single digits. With less than seven minutes remaining in the game, the Runnin’ Bulldogs pulled within one point after cutting the lead down to 58-57. Nelson would answer Gardner-Webb’s run by scoring five consecutive points to give the Stags a six point cushion.
Gardner-Webb would not go down easily, with four minutes remaining in the game, the Runnin’ Bulldogs were able to make yet another run to cut Fairfield’s lead down to just four at 65-61. But Fairfield answered right back, closing the game out on a 10-3 run to give them the 75-64 victory. With the win, Fairfield earned its first road victory of the early season while evening their record in the Wright State Tournament to 1-1.
In their final game of the weekend tournament, the Stags were set to face host Wright State University on Sunday, Nov. 26. But like the other two previous games, the Stags found themselves trying to battle back into the game after Wright State built a huge lead. Although the Stags were only trailing by seven at the halftime, Wright State’s offense made a run to increase their lead to 15 in the second half of play with less than 10 minutes remaining.
The Stags are no strangers to comebacks as they had been battling back all weekend long and this contest seemed to be a repetition of the previous two games. After a pair of free throws off the hands of Kasibabu followed by five consecutive points by Cruz, the deficit was cut to single digits as Wright State now lead by only six at 53-47.
Both teams would exchange blows, but with Wright State holding a slim four-point lead, Flavors Jr. would connect on a deep three-point shot to cut the lead down to just one at 57-56 with less than seven seconds left in regulation. After Wright State failed to inbound the ball, the host school was whistled for a five-second call, giving the Stags the final shot with an opportunity to win the game with 6.5 seconds left. After receiving the inbounds pass from Matija Milin ‘19, Cruz was able to fight off a double to find a wide open Flavors Jr. who shot the ball from three. Unfortunately for the Stags, the ball bounced around the rim a couple of times before falling out as the buzzer expired to give host Wright State University the slim 57-56 victory.
The loss drops Fairfield’s record in the tournament at 1-2, but the Stags look to bounce back when they travel to Staten Island, N.Y. to take on Wagner University on Friday, Dec. 1 for a 7 p.m tipoff.