Friday, February 15, 2008

Connors Corner: Rider, Marist the perfect test

Three weeks from now, the men's basketball team will travel north to Albany, N.Y., for the MAAC tournament, an opportunity for the Stags to challenge the premier teams in the conference.

But they'll get an earlier chance to vie for MAAC supremacy.

This coming weekend, the Stags play host to Rider and Marist, who are currently first and third, respectively, in the MAAC.

If ever there was an opportunity for an unpredictable team to break the trend and assert themselves as a legitimate threat in the MAAC, then this may very well be that chance.

Consecutive comeback victories and an impressive road victory against Niagara have provided the Stags with a rare attribute: confidence.

"This [streak] was big for a lot of reasons," Cooley said. "I think that we are a very good road team, and we need to bring that same energy to our home base."

During a silent moment in the final 10 minutes of the second half, Cooley yelled to the crowd to wake up and make noise.

Cooley said that he is hoping for more support from the crowd this weekend.

"Coming down the stretch, we want to be playing our best basketball, which I think we are," said Cooley.

Based on Cooley's qualifications, the time may be right for Fairfield to confront the daunting task of facing Rider and Marist in the same weekend.

On Saturday, Fairfield will tip-off against Rider, the top team in the conference. Despite a recent loss to Siena at home, Head Coach Tommy Dempsey and the Broncs have looked nearly unbeatable over the past month of conference play.

Prior to its most recent game, Rider had won 10 consecutive contests and did so in dominant fashion. The win streak featured an average victory margin of 13.5 points.

Senior Jason Thompson, a 6-foot-11-inch NBA prospect, is the leading threat for the Broncs.

Like most teams with a single dominant player, Rider is at its best when Thompson is at his best. This season, the Broncs have won nine of 12 conference games, in which Thompson has scored at least 18 points per game.

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