Saturday, January 31, 2009

One day later

Less than 24 hours after a press release announcing the loss of three key players rattled the foundation of the men's basketball team, the Stags came out and showed their true colors. They smiled, they hugged, they cheered each other on and most importantly for their damaged psyches: they won.

With Anthony "Peanut" Johnson in the hospital with a career-threatening and season-ending chest problem and Jon Han sitting at home it would have been easy for Fairfield to come out flat, minds elsewhere, unable to concentrate. It seemed that was what would happen when the Stags fell behind big in the first half, down 14 points, but then a funny thing happened. They started to play like they have always known how. They were loose, they were happy and they battled.

It was one of the most impressive Stags victories I have seen in what is now my third year covering the team. They played their hearts out. Coach Ed Cooley was like a proud papa, beaming on the sideline the entire game, while in the back of his mind he was surely thinking about Peanut. There are a lot of similarities between Cooley and Peanut. Both overcame a difficult childhood. Both of them love to smile. And both of them play/coach with a tenacity that is unmatched. It was hard to watch Peanut struggle on the court since the UConn game, knowing he was banged up and bruised. He couldn't go for rebounds the same way, he winced when he made thunderous dunks that set off the crowd. Cooley could see something was wrong and it turns out it was much worse than anyone could have thought.

Now the Stags face a quick turnaround and yet another game that could decide the direction of this season. The athletic department is marketing the game as "Good vs. Evil, Cooley vs. Patsos." Loyola vs. Fairfield is always a fun game to watch and with the amount of drama that has flowed through the Stags this past week, this one should be even better than the past.

Meanwhile the Greyhounds are also feeling good, coming off of a win over the Rider Broncs which puts both the Stags and Loyola at 6-5 in the MAAC.

No matter what happens, the game will be entertaining for sure.

-Tom Cleary

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fairfield vs. Marist Live Blog

Thursday, January 29, 2009

From bad to worse

Breaking news from North Benson Rd., via tSports and Information Director Jack Jones:

"FAIRFIELD, Conn. - Fairfield University Head Men's Basketball Coach Ed Cooley announced that senior guard Jonathan Han, junior forward Anthony Johnson, and sophomore forward Warren Edney will be out of the lineup for a period of time beginning with Friday night's game against Marist College.

Han has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team policy and will miss at least the next two games.

Junior forward Anthony Johnson was diagnosed with a medical condition that will keep him out of the lineup for the remainder of the season.

Sophomore forward Warren Edney will miss the remainder of the season due to a severely sprained ankle.

The Stags will host Marist College on Friday, January 30 and Loyola College on Sunday, February 1 at the Arena at Harbor Yard."


More to come as the story progresses.

Anthony Johnson in hospital

According to Anthony Johnson's Facebook, he is in the hospital "for a few days," with a blood clot in his lungs. No word from the team yet on his condition, but The Mirror is working to find out more information and will put it on the blog as soon as it is possible.

The 6'8 junior center from Lake Wales Fla. has struggled in his past few games and in a conversation with head coach Ed Cooley yesterday, Cooley said that Johnson has been playing "banged up" for the past few games, since the UConn game back on Dec. 26.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Men's Basketball at Manhattan

Wanna make a million?

Then pick Fairfield (or Manhattan)! The Stags and the Jaspers are one of three men's college basketball games available to select from tonight on ESPN's Beat the Streak, an interactive online game in which contestants must successfully predict the outcome of games. No spreads, no bonuses - just wins and losses. A streak of 25 games correctly predicted could net you a million dollars. 

I know - another random post, but I must say that it is pretty cool to see Fairfield and a Monday Night MAAC game get a little national pub.

See you in Riverdale.

The MAAC midway

National sports news outlet the Bleacher Report recently summed up the first half of the MAAC season, and, not surprisingly, realized that Siena is doing pretty good. Here's what they had to see about our Stags:

"Fairfield has an upcoming stretch of four must-win games against Manhattan, Marist, Loyola, and Canisius. The games against Manhattan and Canisius are on the road, and Fairfield needs to win those games to prove that they belong in the upper third."

Must-wins? That's an understatement. My only beef with the piece was the summary of Fairfield's two "close" games with Siena. Sure, New Year's Day was a quality game - even without a healthy Warred Edney - but the Bleacher Creatures clearly missed game two. As for the rest of the story, I'm buying the Chuck Martin and the '09 Marist team to last year's Stags comparison. Intriguing.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fairfield vs. Rider Game Blog

Herbie and History

A few links prior to our gameday coverage:

  • William Paxton is reporting that Fairfield guard Herbie Allen is out for tonight's game against Rider at Alumni Hall. We have yet to confirm this, however. Sean Grzeck will also miss his second consecutive game. Greg Nero is listed as questionable but is expected to play.
  • Can't get enough Ben Doody? Check out this link of a phenomenal piece he wrote on the historic implications of Barack Obama's inauguration, as seen through the eyes of head coach Ed Cooley. 
  • Shameless plug: If you liked Ben's responses yesterday, be sure to read my counterpoint to our Q&A on his always Trentonian College Basketball blog. 
More to come.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Doody Calls - Part Deux

I love when Rider plays Fairfield.

First, truth be told, I'm a Jersey Boy, and have queitly enjoyed the renaissance this south New Jersey school has experienced over the past several years - even though I'm a Stag true and true. In addition, a Fairfield/Rider game now has a lot of implications on MAAC standings and postseason seedings. Plus, this year's contest moves from an exit of I-95 to North Benson Road, a far cry from the meaningless games of year's past at Alumni Hall against Yale and St. Peter's College.

More importantly, though, it is the return of an old friend of ours, Ben Doody, who currently is a beat writer (Rutgers football and Rider basketball) and assistant sports editor at The Trentonian.

Here's our second annual 'Doody Calls' Q and A leading into the 'Clash on Campus' tomorrow evening. Enjoy:

1. Based on the team's preseason ranking, has Rider exceeded/disappointed from your perspective?

Right now, the teams picked in the top four in the preseason coaches' poll are all in the top four, but in a different order, with Niagara (fourth in the poll) in second place, Fairfield (second in the poll) in third and Rider (third in the poll) in fourth. So I guess strictly based on the polls, you'd have to say Rider and Fairfield have slightly underachieved. But based on their own expectations, the Broncs aren't happy being 4-3, just like I'm sure the Stags aren't happy being 5-3.

2. Is Ryan Thompson well on his way to becoming the best player in the MAAC? How vital is he to the Broncs' success?

Is he on his WAY to being the best player in the league? Maybe.

Is he right now? I don't think you could say that because I think if you put Kenny Hasbrouck or Edwin Ubiles on Rider, either one would average as many or more points as Thompson, and if you put Thompson on Siena, his numbers would be down for the same reason Hasbrouck's and Ubiles' are: they have to share the ball with each other and with Alex Franklin.

That isn't to say he doesn't have good parts around him. Harris Mansell still might be the best catch-and-shoot guy in the league (Ed Cooley told me yesterday he thinks that's the case) and Mike Ringgold can be tough to stop in the low post. But if Thompson has an off day in a MAAC game, it'll take something really, really big from somebody else for Rider to win.

I think Thompson will be a first-team all-MAAC pick and that more than half of Rider's games next year will be attended by NBA scouts. So if you're Thompson, that's a good position to be in entering your senior year.

3. Given the graduation of Jason Thompson, doesn't head coach TommyDempsey deserve a lot of credit for the fact that this team is onceagain in contention for the MAAC championship?

He certainly built a team that could survive without Jason and that will probably be really good next year, when essentially everyone but Mansell will be back. I think we'll have to wait until the end of the year to evaluate how he did with this particular group.

4. Name a player on Rider most Fairfield fans have never really heard about, but will notice tomorrow night.

That's a tough one, because it depends what kind of Fairfield fan you're talking about. I bet some of the students who'll be in the Hall have never heard of Ryan Thompson, but JoeStag has heard of Pat Mansell and Robbie Meyers. I'll go with freshman forward Novar Gadson, who's averaging just shy of 10 points per game and will be in the MAAC Rookie of the Year discussion at the end of the year. What a lot of fans probably don't know is that he broke Joe "Jelleybean" Bryant's career scoring record at John Bartram High in Philadelphia. You may have heard of Jelleybean's son, Kobe.

5. As a Fairfield alum, what are your feelings on Fairfield's playthus far this season? Are you at all surprised by Siena's sweep of theStags?

Let's face it: the loss at home to Siena was sickening to Fairfield fans. Absolutely sickening. If you're really the second best team in the league, you don't let the No. 1 team in the league come into your building and absolutely take the place over. It's just inexcusable, and if you don't believe me, ask Ed Cooley.

I'm not necessarily surprised Siena swept the series, but I'm surprised last Saturday's game was so lopsided. With that said, a win tomorrow night and they're 6-3 in the league. That's certainly not a bad place to be.

6. I have to bring it up: Harbor Yard vs. Alumni Hall.

In a way, it's a lose-lose situation.

Harbor Yard is the easiest venue to play in for a visiting team in the MAAC, and you'll have a hard time finding a coach, player of AD who will tell you otherwise. Even if you get 3,000 people there and they make some noise, it doesn't compare to having 2,500 on campus in that noisy little band box.

But Alumni Hall is not a Division I college basketball facility. Everything from the stands to the locker rooms would need significant upgrades if they were ever going to move back there full time, and I doubt that will happen, especially given the school's commitment to Harbor Yard. And I can all but guarantee you that if they played every game there, they wouldn't sell out every game. Go back and look at the attendance figures from the 80s and 90s and compare them to what they've been for the couple of games they've played there over the last couple of years. If the novelty were to wear off, the place wouldn't be packed every night unless the team was REALLY worth watching.

What I'd like to see happen is for the school to build a 4,000-seat arena on campus that could also serve as a convention center. But with the lack of land on campus, the town's strict zoning regulations and the state of the economy, that's not going to happen any time soon.

So here's my proposed solution: 1) Win; 2) Win some more; 3) Make sure that the students are well aware that you're winning and that they're missing out if they don't show up.

7. Does either team - Fairfield or Rider - have a legitimate chance of cutting down the nets at the Times-Union Center come March?


I wouldn't be shocked if Siena ran the table in the regular season, or if after a while they started receiving votes in the Top 25. And they'll be playing on their home court, with bigger and louder crowds than the ones they attract in the regular season. You could argue that even without the double bye that teams used to have, they'll be the biggest favorite entering the tournament in league history.

But no one's invincible. How many people, for instance, thought undefeated Ball State would lose to Buffalo in the MAC championship football game? Or that the undefeated Patriots would lose to the Giants last year in the Super Bowl? I could go on and on.

Fairfield and Rider both played them tight in Albany and both are capable of doing the same thing in March. Were they to do that, then get a few lucky bounces down the stretch, they could slay Siena and cut down the nets.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Men's basketball: Stags lead Canisius 31-28 at halftime

It's halftime at the Harbor and after a slow start to the half and then a chippy end, the Stags have taken a 31-28 lead into the halftime break over the Golden Griffs. Both Fairfield head coach Ed Cooley and Canisius head coach Tom Parrotta received technical fouls, along with Stags point guard Jon Han, who was arguing a non-foul call.

The Stags are led in scoring by sophomore forward Yorel Hawkins and junior forward Mike Evanovich who each have nine points. Jon Han chipped in six points, but has three fouls.

Fairfield trailed early by as much as nine (15-6 with 11:14 remaining), but fought back led by three straight three-pointers by Evanovich.

The Stags are shooting just 24 percent from the floor, but are 16-for-17 from the foul line. Hawkins went 7-for-7 in the half.

More to come at the conclusion of the game.

-Tom Cleary

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Change of plans

In honor of new Yankees' first baseman Mark Teixeira, we've had a little change of plans here at the Mirror Sports Blog. Due to Tom Cleary feeling under the weather and the inclement weather heading straight for West Point/Northern New Jersey and Southern CT, the live blog from West Point has - sadly - been postponed.

Think of it as a little Teixeira-esque last minute decision.

But I'll be sure to blog a recap and some reactions, as well as thoughts on tonight's big time MAAC game between Siena and Kansas.

Stay tuned. And keep in mind that in the coming months, neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall stop our live coverage - including when Jimmy Patsos comes to town this coming Friday night when the Greyhounds battle the Stags.

[Photo Credit: New York Daily News]

Next Stop: West Point

O.K., so New Rochelle wasn't exactly what we expected. These things happen. Perhaps the Stags can use a little old fashioned military wake-up tomorrow against the Army. Out-of-conference games are never shoe-ins, but this seems like an opportune time for Fairfield to end the snide before it's all MAAC, all the time.

The best part? I'll be there in person, blogging the game live from the hallowed grounds of West Point. Check local listings.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Practically predictable in every way

Following the Stags' six-point loss to Siena at the Times-Union Center on New Year's Day, head coach Ed Cooley left nothing to the imagination:

"I thought defensively we played like (expletive)," Cooley said. "We were just terrible defensively. I couldn't believe I was coaching that game. (Shoot), somebody should've kicked me in the (behind)."

I've always felt that Cooley has had the unique ability of being able to "push the players' buttons" at the right time. Despite the fact that the Stags probably should have blown Fordham or Drexel out of the water, Cooley was calm, cool, and relaxed at the post-game. Why? It was a game Fairfield should have won. And they did.

This time around, though, despite Warren Edney's bad Achilles' tendon and Jon Han's incessant foul trouble, Cooley made it known that Fairfield's effort was subpar from start to finish. I couldn't help but notice that his harsh words came after a game that, while "winable," is certainly one that no one should have penciled in as a Stags win beforehand.

On the road, against the defending conference champions, in front of a large crowd on New Year's Day? Siena is supposed to win those games, not Fairfield.

Perhaps it was Ed's way of saying that this team has been far too predictable, for better or for words. Every winable game - and I'm including the team's early-season road win over Holy Cross, Alumni Hall W over American, and the team's win over Chattanooga in Puerto Rico as a winable games - has gone in favor of the Stags.

Conversely, every game Fairfield should have lost, it either fumbled away in the game's final minutes (see: Siena) or been blown out of the water (see: Memphis, UConn, Va. Tech, Missouri).

Cooley, in my opinion, was sending a message: if Fairfield can't win those type of games, the games in which their backs are against the wall heading in, then maybe this team is not ready to compete for a conference title after all.