BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – All night long, the Fairfield University men’s basketball let it fly from long range, finishing the game with a season-high 14 three pointers on 34 attempts. So you would have to see the irony in the fact that it was Jerome Segura’s running one-hander in the lane that ended up being the shot that posted the deciding points in the Stags 93-87 win over Iona College at Webster Bank Arena on Monday night.
For nearly 37 minutes, Fairfield held a lead over their counterparts, an advantage that stood at 13 points in the first half and 10 points in the second half. But the fact that college basketball games are 40 minutes long was not lost on the Gaels, and so they used a 15-7 run to take their first lead since their first possession of the game when Jordan Washington laid the ball into the basket with 2:37 left to give his team an 82-81 edge.
Fairfield took possession of the ball and came down court as if the game had no time limit and ran its offense just as it had all night long. During that possession, Segura held the ball in the far corner and made his move with the shot clock running down. The Gaels defense gave him room throughout the game, instead keying in on Fairfield’s leading scorers. Segura drove to the basket, pushed the ball toward its intended target, and watched the ball go through the hoop to give Fairfield the lead for good at 83-82.
“He doesn’t lack confidence to take shots, but he is so focused on the sharing the ball as a point guard that he doesn’t always take those shots,” Head Coach Sydney Johnson said. “Tonight, there were times where he was open and I think that flipped the switch for him offensively.”
With a one-point lead in hand, the Stags forced an Iona turnover, setting up a chance to build on that narrow lead. Tyler Nelson stood between the circles as many guards do, some 30 feet away from the basket. With the defender playing off him, Nelson dribbled and took a step closer before surprising everyone with a shot well beyond the NBA three-point line that found nothing but net.
“It was one of those things where I had the ball in my hands, the play broke down and we really didn’t have anything at the moment,” Nelson said. “My defender kind of backed off and my instincts told me to take the shot and I made it.”
The Stags were not shy about shooting from long range in the first half either, attempting 22 shots from behind the three-point arc. More importantly, Fairfield made nine of those tries which allowed the team to open up a comfortable lead through most of the 20 minutes. The Stags led for 17-plus minutes in the opening half, pushing their advantage to as many as 13 points.
Jerry Johnson Jr. started the barrage with a three-point field goal that put Fairfield on the scoreboard and erased Iona’s only lead of the half. Matija Milin padded the lead with a layup that raised the score to 5-2. The Gaels would eventually tie the score after Schadrac Casimir netted the team’s first three pointer and drew even at 9-9.
The Stags scored the next nine points off three pointers from Johnson Jr., Jonathan Kasibabu, and Tyler Nelson to pull ahead 18-9 with 12:40 remaining in the half. Iona whittled away at the lead and came as close as four points following a layup from Jon Severe that made the score 20-16 at the 10:26 mark. Once again, Fairfield counted with a string of points, this time a six-point run that regained the team’s double-digit lead at 26-16 after Curtis Cobb connected from outside the arc.
Five Fairfield student-athletes reached double figures in the game, including a career-high 21 points from Matija Milin. Curtis Cobb led all Fairfield scorers with 22 points, while Nelson added 17 points to the cause. Segura and Jerry Johnson Jr. closed out the fab five with 15 and 13 points, respectively.
Fairfield’s lead reached a first-half high at 13 points, 31-18, before Iona was able to reduce the deficit to nine point by intermission at 45-36. Cobb led all Fairfield scorers in the opening half with 11 points, the only Fairfield student-athlete in double figures over the first 20 minutes.
The Stags return to action on Thursday night for an 8 p.m. game at Manhattan College which will be broadcast on ESPN3.