Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The 2-3 Zone - Jan. 30

A look at our top dogs in the MAAC:
1. Siena (13-7, 8-2 MAAC) - Despite Marist's current position as the top spot in the MAAC RPI rankings, it's clear that Siena is stil the team to beat in this conference. My logic? Talent. Of all of the teams I've seen this season, the Saints may the most versatile, and are certainly the most athletic. Whether or not that talent translates into overwhelming MAAC success depends on how the Saints' respond to a daunting second-half schedule. Even though they have been billed the so-called "team to beat", they have yet to play and thus Rider or Marist, and still await a second outing against Niagara and Loyola (Md.). And we all remember what the Greyhound did to them a week ago (85-56 win for Loyola). Aberration or mark of inconsistency?

2. Marist (14-7, 8-2 MAAC) - It's party like it's 2007 all over again in Poughkeepsie. Marist's Women have accentuated their Sweet 16 appearance in last season's NCAA tournament with a fantastic start to conference play - which includes two victories over Joe Frager and a senior-laden Fairfield team. As for the boys, it's hard not to argue with the resume. Jay Gavin has won MAAC Rooking of the Week for five consecutive seasons. More importantly, he has been the go-to-guy for the Red Foxed, and has eased the pain of losing Jared Jordan. A big game tomorrow night against Rider - if Marist pulls it off, I'd say their a definite contender.

Three movers-and-shakers in the MAAC
3. Rider (15-6, 8-2 MAAC) - The Broncs lost two of its first three MAAC games - one to defending-champ Niagara and the other to Marist by one point. Since then, the Thompson brothers have yet to drop a conference game. Rider will look to avenge that early-season loss when they travel north on the Thruway to take on Marist on Wednesday night - our selection in "Scoutin' the Stags" for game of the week. My opinion on the Broncs first-half of the MAAC season: the old adage "good teams win the games they are supposed to win" comes to mind. And they have certainly done that Rider still has a pair of games against Siena and Fairfield, and another against Loyola (Md.) on the schedule.

4. Niagara (13-6, 7-3 MAAC) - I know, I know - that early-season loss to Canisius is especially troubling. I mean, Canisius? Really? It is possible that this season's Golden Griffs may have lost to Iona last season, even amidst Iona's woeful MAAC start. Still, anytime the third overall scorer in the nation (Charron Fisher) is in your lineup, you have a chance to win. The thing that impressed me most in the victory was the Purple Eagles' ability to create points without Fisher. Tyrone Lewis killed the Stags with perimeter shooting (6-of-13 from behind the arc). Benson Egemoyne is a force in the paint. This is a good team, folks. Big games on the way for Joe Mihalich - Loyola (Md.), Fairfield, and Rider. I'd say they take two out of three.

5. Loyola (Md.) (11-10, 7-3 MAAC) - Jimmy Patsos and the Greyhounds caught all of our attention with their 85-56 smackdown of Siena. Chalk it up to a perfect night for Loyola, and a let-down/foul-plagued game for the Saints. Still, I'm beginning to get the feeling that this Loyola team is finally beginning to match the promise many early-season prognosticators (myself included) expected out of Gerald Brown and Co. Five straight MAAC wins don't lie. Following the team's final out-of-conference game against NJIT, a pair against Niagara are on the way.

- K.C.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Scoutin' the Stags: Jan. 29th

Last Time Out:
When we last saw the Fairfield Men's Basketball team, we saw a focused, determined squad take the floor against Niagara - and, for 37 minutes, played with one of the best team's in the conference. The last three minutes, though, were a far different story. The inconsistency that has plagued Fairfield for so much of the season reared its ugly head. Said head coach Ed Cooley, "We showed our youth. They were men, we were babies". The end result: Niagara sweats out a win, 73-61.

The Week Ahead:
  • Once again, neither the Men or the Women play in any games during the week. However, Both teams return to action on Friday night, February 1st.
  • Sabra Wrice and the Stags look to get back on track following a MAAC loss to underrated Iona. On Friday night, the Stags face Niagara at 7p.m. from Alumni Hall.
  • Joe Frager and the Women's Basketball team continues their week with an afternoon home game against Canisius.
  • For the boys, Jon Han and the Stags look to get back on track in a trip to western New York. On Friday evening, Fairfield takes on Canisius in the team's second meeting in a one-week span.
  • Then, on Super Bowl Sunday, the Stags continue their Buffalo trip and will look to avenge a difficult loss by taking down Charron Fisher and the Niagara Purple Eagles. Tip-off is scheduled for 2p.m.
MAAC Game of the Week
Marist was an early-season selection for a let-down in 2008. With Jared Jordan and a talented senior class leaving, assumptions were that a repeat of 2007's success would be a difficult task. Yet, here we are, one season later, and the Red Foxes are once again on top of the MAAC standings. As of January 28th, the Red Foxes led the MAAC in RPI. On Wednesday night (Jan. 30), freshman sensation Jay Gavin faces arguably the biggest test of the season, as the Red Foxes face Rider. Lost in the hoopla on a talented Siena team and another stunning run from Marist, the Broncs are 8-2 in the MAAC, tied for tops in the conference. Last time these two met, it was a nail-biter in Trenton that the Red Foxes won by a point. Will Rider return the favor?

A busy, busy weekend for Niagara is on the way. First, the Purple Eagles host Loyola (Md.) in a battle of two teams that seem to be finally hitting their stride. Niagara took down St. Peter's and Fairfield over the weekend to end their snide, but will be tested by a hungry Greyhounds team that has won five of its last six games. Then, Ed Cooley and his physical Stags team come to town one week after letting a tight game get away in the waning minutes. This weekend could be a pivotal point in the season for Joe Mihalich and his Purple Eagles, especially if they have hopes of matching last season's success.

- Keith Connors

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Follow the Stags Live against Niagara!

Stay tuned to the Mirror Sports Blog for live coverage and analysis from Harbor Yard, as the Stags' take on the Niagara Purple Eagles in a MAAC battle. Last season, Harbor Yard was friendly to Joe Michalach and his team, as the Purple Eagles ran the table and won a berth in the NCAA tournament.

Today, the Stags look to add onto a three-game winning steak and put themselves back into contention in the MAAC.

Follow LIVE on the Men's Basketball blog.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Niagara Preview

The Stags are facing an extremely tough match-up tomorrow as they play Niagara Purple Eagles at the Arena at Harbor Yard. At 6-3, the Purple Eagles sit one spot ahead of Fairfield in the MAAC standings. The Stags will move into a tie with Niagara with a win.

Every MAAC team has played at least nine game so far (except for Loyola and Manhattan who played each other in their tenth conference game of the season earlier today) and currently six of the ten teams are above .500, each with a legitimate shot at the regular season title.

Niagara has been up and down all season, led by Charron Fisher, who averages 27 points per game, the third highest total in the country. Fisher is 6-4 and plays power forward in a line-up that includes three guards.

Fairfield needs Jon Han to play the point as well as he has the past two games. Han averages 5.8 assists per game, tops in the MAAC and as Coach Cooley said after the St. Peter's game, when Han plays well the Stags win.

The Stags need to win at home to compete for the top spots in the MAAC, because they still face tough road games in Buffalo and at Rider.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Halftime from Harbor Yard: FU 31, Canisius 17

  • Stat o' the half: After a game in which head coach Ed Cooley questioned his shot selection and aggressiveness, Jon Han played perfect in the first half. The junior point guard currently has eight points and six assists.
  • Halftime score: Fairfield 31, Canisius 17
  • Jon Han is forced to take an awfully long three-point shot, and converts it. Shades of Michael Van Schaick here at Harbor Yard. The Griffs can't get the shot off as time expires. 31-17 Stags.
  • The scene: 37 seconds left, the Stags off of a huddle, and a second chance to end the half on a nice note. Evanovich and Sean Grzeck comes back out for a perimeter threat.

- Keith Connors

Follow Stags/Canisius LIVE

Check out Mirror Sports exclusive live coverage of Stags' men's basketball as they take on the Canisius Golden Griffs at Harbor Yard.

We'll have live glog coverage, and some post game thoughts/interviews. Also, we will podcast the press conference following the game!

More to come.

- Keith Connors

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Connors Corner: Crunch Time for Stags

Ed Cooley walked away from the court, shaking his head and looking around the building, perhaps searching the rafters of the Hynes Center to find some answers. His son, Isaiah, who had sat courtside behind his dad, ran along the benches to meet his father, confused with his father's actions.

Make that two confused Cooleys.

It wasn't that a road loss to a well-rested Iona team was the end of the world; it was the team's mannerisms. A four-point game at half turned into a sloppy display of defense. Poor perimeter coverage made Milan Prodanovic (five consecutive three-point shots to start in the second half) look like the second-coming of J.J. Redick. Constant turnovers left the Stags without momentum on the court.

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[photo credit: FU S.I.D.]

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Evanovich, Stags' Show Signs of Life

Three days earlier, head coach Ed Cooley witnessed his team self-destruct after halftime against an Iona Gaels team that had lost five of six games.
“Right now, we’re a team struggling with our identity,” said Cooley.
While that identity may still be in question, Fairfield did its best to put the doubts to rest – at least for one night on campus.
Mike Evanovich led the Stags with 19 points, en route to the Stags 70-64 victory over St. Peter’s College on Monday night at Alumni Hall. Jon Han also added a career-high 13 assists.
More importantly, Fairfield showed glimpses of the team that stormed out to a 3-1 conference record.
“I’m very happy with the win,” said Cooley. “We really needed that win bad.”
The Stags stormed out to a 22-14 lead and did not trail in the first half. However, St. Peter’s showed the same resiliency the Stags saw 24 days before in Jersey City.
“I don’t know what it is with St. Peter’s,” said Cooley. “We come out playing really well, and then we hit a bad (stretch).”
The two teams dueled back and forth for most of the game, with the lead changing sixteen times in the second half. Ironically, in their earlier meeting three weeks prior, St. Peter’s never led.
While pleased with the victory, Cooley still feels that his “young” team is still very much a work-in-progress.
“I felt that we were too unselfish with the basketball tonight,” said Cooley. “We had four straight possessions where we turned down open looks, particularly Jon (Han).”
“I don’t think we did a good job defensively (against St. Peter’s). When you look at the stats, it’s a little surprising that we won this basketball game,” added Cooley.

For this entire story, and more analysis on the Men's and Women's Basketball teams, check out this week's print edition of "The Mirror" (due out on Wednesday, January 23rd!)

And, as always, stay tuned for the latest news and information on all things Stags' basketball on the Mirror Sports Blog.

- Keith Connors (Photo Credit: Jon Ollwether - The Mirror)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Halftime at the Hall: 29-28 Stags (part deux)

  • Stags missed five free throws. St. Peter's? Zero.
  • My favorite stat of the first half had to be Fairfield shooting 11-of-22 from the field (good enough for 50%, even though I'm not a math major). The Stags added a pair of three's from Evanovich and Hawkins, as well. Yet, somehow, someway, this is a one-point game. Don't ask me.
  • Highlight of my night: #52 in the Fairfield kids game. All 6-foot-4 of him. (Red Sea: "Steroids! Steroids!")

- Keith Connors

Stags set to take on St. Pete's

Alumni Hall will be packed to the rafters tonight as Jon Han and the Stags are back on campus to take on St. Peter's.  

The story line going in, aside from Fairfield's return home, is whether or not Fairfield can return to their winning ways.  Coming off back-to-back road losses at Iona, a game in which head coach Ed Cooley was ejected, and a road loss to Marist has put the team's once promising MAAC start in jeopardy.

Follow the game live on the Men's Basketball blog.

More to come!

- Keith Connors

Friday, January 18, 2008

Final from Hynes: Iona 67, Fairfield 52

  • Final from Hynes: Iona 67, Fairfield 52
  • Here's the game in a nutshell: Cooley ejected, Herbie is hurt, Prodanovic can shoot, and the Gaels win.
  • Geoff Middleton's three at the buzzer misses long, and the Gaels have themselves a victory.
  • Jason McPherson drives the lane and is fouled.
  • Jump-ball leads to Iona ball. As Fairfield's Jon Han checks in, John Hans subs into the game for Iona. Small world, huh?
  • Edney hits a three to keep this one respectable. 67-52 Gaels.
  • Yorel Hawkins hits a jumper. Springer answers with a jam. 67-49 Gaels.
  • Senior forward Geoff Middleton checks in for some time. The team looks like it won't risk a Nero injury for the rest of this one.
  • A no-look pass from Han goes off of a few hands and results in a turnover. Rough night all around for the Men in Red. 63-47 Gaels.
  • Fairfield cuts it to 16. 63-47 Gaels.
  • De'Shaune Griffin dunks on a defensive lapse. 63-43 Gaels.
  • "Mike"'s halftime antics are about the most fun I had all game.

- Keith Connors

Halftime from the Hynes Center

  • Score: Iona 30, Fairfield 26
  • Joe Cefoli's observation: "Props to this old man pep band". They broke out the 'Family Guy' theme, so they deserve some bonus points in my book. (Joe is subbing tonight in his backyard since our own Tom Cleary had prior commitments).
  • Stat o' the half: 11 turnovers from Fairfield in the first half. Iona points off turnovers: 5. Definitely makes a bit of a difference.
  • Thought o' the half: Stags have been playing relatively clean, at least defensively. Only two foul shot attempts from the Gaels - in fairness, though, most of Fairfield's fouls have been offensive.

- Keith Connors

Iona/Fairfield Live Glog!

Follow the Stags live from New Rochelle, N.Y. with Mirror Sports' exclusive live game-log. Enjoy!

- Keith Connors

Allen Questionable for FU/Iona

UPDATE (2:40pm): Stags' guard Herbie Allen is questionable for tonight with a hand injury. The severity of the injury (and if Allen will miss any playing time) is not yet known. However, it is doubtful that he will miss extensive time. Allen may simply be held out as a precaution given Fairfield's rigorous MAAC schedule over the next few weeks. If this happens, expect more playing time for Devin Johnson.

Speaking of Herbie, there was a great piece from Bill Paxton on his recent surge over the past few games. Allen has experienced a fantastic resurgence since being re-inserted into the starting lineup. He led the Stags in scoring in their most recent game, a 77-70 loss at Marist.

- Keith Connors

Fairfield Stags @ Iona - Jan. 18

From the Stags' Side: (Credit: Connecticut Post)

Fairfield at Iona

WHAT — Men's basketball
WHEN — Tonight, 7:30
WHERE — Hynes Athletic Center, New Rochelle, N.Y.
RECORDS — Fairfield 5-11, 3-3 MAAC; Iona 6-12, 2-4
THE LINE — Iona by 3
LAST MEETING — Fairfield won 83-76 in overtime Jan. 14, 2007
SKINNY — The Stags carry a two-game losing streak into tonight's game. Junior guard Herbie Allen has had the hot hand for Fairfield, averaging 21 points in the past two games. The Stags' perimeter defense needs work after allowing 24 3-pointers in losses to Loyola and Marist, which shot 48 percent from outside. Fairfield is on the road for the sixth time in seven games. The team is 3-2 away from home since Christmas. Dexter Gray leads Iona with 11.4 ppg and Gary Springer is averaging 7.2 rebounds. The Stags have swept Iona in regular season play four times over the past five years. The schools have not split a season series since 1999-2000.
UP NEXT — Monday vs. Saint Peter's at Alumni Hall, 7 p.m.

More to come!

- Keith Connors

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The 2-3 Zone - Jan.15

A look at the MAAC's two top dogs:
1. Siena (10-6, 5-1 MAAC) - I refuse to call the Fairfield loss a total aberration, but it's hard to ignore the fact that not only did Siena' shooters go cold, but the Saints were without a a scoring threat (forward Alex Franklin did not play). Now the sophomore forward is back after missing five games with a back injury, and a much more disciplined attack took apart Niagara, who held the MAAC's top record and lead the conference in RPI prior to that game. Anyone who has seen Siena play knows they are extremely talented and extremely deep. A win over Stanford and a strong MAAC start are hard to ignore.

2. Niagara (11-4, 5-1 MAAC) - Okay, okay - so they had a little trouble against Siena. Despite the 10-point loss to the Saints, Joe Mihalich's boys are playing well, and it's hard to discredit a fantastic overall record. Don't forget: these are the defending MAAC champions. The Purple Eagles are 70th in the nation in RPI rating - tops in the MAAC conference. The team holds impressive in-conference wins over Rider and Marist, as well as an early season sweep of a respectable Manhattan team. And, in case you didn't know, this kid Charron Fisher is pretty good. According to MidMajority.com, he leads the nation in scoring. He totaled 63 points in TWO GAMES over the weekend!

Three "movers and shakers" in the MAAC:
3. Rider (11-6, 4-2 MAAC) - I hesitate to give Marist the top spot in this section - only due to the fact that they've yet to get to the heart of their MAAC schedule. On the other hand, it's hard to not like what you're seeing early in the season down in Trenton. Early seasons wins over Penn State and Rutgers are a boost in confidence. The Broncos played Marist tough earlier in the MAAC schedule in a very win-able game. Oh, and did you see that last game? An impressive 81-67 win over Gerald Brown and Loyola (Md.). Powerhouse forward Jason Thompson's stat line: 28 points, 17 rebounds, five blocks. Not too shabby. Tommy Dempsey is doing a fine job thus far in 2008.

4. Marist (11-6, 5-1 MAAC) - Believe it or not, Marist's RPI rating is actually higher than Siena's. Credit that to a strong conference start and a few victories over opponents with decent RPI's (a December 1st win over mid-major Wright St. helped). Despite the tremendous loss of senior talent, Marist seems poised for another run in '08. Still, the Red Foxes await another game against Niagara and Rider, a pair against Loyola (Md.), a game at Harbor Yard with the defensive-minded Stags, and that Siena team. However, I'd say that 5-1 start is a reflection of Marist's great athletes on the perimeter. Freshman Jay Gavin (averaging 22.3 ppg) looks like the real deal.

5. Fairfield (5-11, 3-3 MAAC) - Call me biased all you like, but I'd like to believe that a challenging out-of-conference record had this team ready to go in December, as evident in Fairfield's strong MAAC start. Ed Cooley is a motivator, and he'll used early season struggles as motivation for the rest of the season. The Stags have yet to find "Uncle Mo" this season, but might as well extend that search to another key component: consistency. After a nice conference start and a tremendous win over Franklin-less Siena, Fairfield dropped a pair of games to Loyola (Md.) and Marist. Now would be a good time for Jon Han and the boys to get back on track: four of the Stags' next five games are against MAAC opponents with records (overall and MAAC) south of the border.

More to come. Comments?

- Keith Connors (got it right this time!)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Scoutin' the Stags - Jan. 14

Last Time Out:
When we last saw the Fairfield Men's Basketball team, the shooters went cold and allowed Marist's perimeter game to get hot. The end result: a 77-70 loss to the Red Foxes in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Jay Gavin led the way for Marist with 23 points. As a team, Marist shot 48.2 percent from the field for the game. The tough blow came only two days after dropping a game to Loyola (Md.) at Harbor Yard, 67-63.

The Week Ahead:
  • Neither the Men or the Women play in any games at the outset of the week. However, both teams return to action on Friday night, January 18th.
  • Jon Han and the Men's Basketball team look to get back on track and improve their MAAC record in New Rochelle on Friday, as they take on the Iona Gaels. Tip is scheduled for 7:30pm.
  • The Stags swept the Gaels last season, including a thrilling overtime victory at the Arena at Harbor Yard last January. Mamadou Diakhate drained a three with only a few seconds remaining in regulation.
  • The Women's team plays a pair of games over the weekend, beginning with a Friday night showdown against Rider. On Sunday, the Stags will look to extend their MAAC rebound against Loyola (Md.).
MAAC Game of the Week
Loyola (Md.) did not start the season strong, but played the Stags tough last Friday night and seemed poised to have a break-out week in MAAC play. That vital stretch begins on Thursday evening in a showdown with Marist, another team that gave our boys in red some difficulty in the last few days. The Red Foxes are still a very raw, inexperienced team. Still, it is hard to ignore their early season surge (5-1 MAAC) - especially given progonosticators figured last season's heavy season class would result in a rebuilding year. With a strong Loyola (Md.) crowd - all of them remember how Marist was a powerhouse last season - I'd expect this one to be fun.

In other news, Niagara (5-1 MAAC) may have looked outmatched against a more talented Siena Saints squad (I'm a big fan of alliteration, by the way), but they still have the depth to make a run come tournament time. That conference record is no aberration. On Friday night, they go head-to-head with their antithesis, the feeble Canisius Griffs who have yet to record a MAAC victory. The top conference record against the worst? Something's gotta give.

More to come!

- Keith Connors