BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – When someone takes a look at the box score, the eye is almost always drawn to the gaudy numbers located in the points column. While those numbers are certainly an indicator in the men’s basketball team’s win over Marist College on Saturday afternoon, one should take a look at the steals column next to Thomas Nolan’s name as well as the blocked shots and rebounds columns beside Jonathan Kasibabu’s name.
It was Nolan’s steal at the end of the first half that provided the catalyst for the Stags victory and the defensive effort of Kasibabu that provided the opportunity for the Stags to overcome a double-digit first-half deficit and win the game, 72-62, at Webster Bank Arena.
While the final score may not indicate it, today looked as though it could be Marist’s day. The Red Foxes threatened to go into the locker room with a double-digit lead at 40-29 with 34 seconds left in the first half. But Tyler Nelson made a pair of free throws that allowed Marist to take the ball out for what would be the last shot of the half. But Nolan stole the inbound pass and sent the ball to Cobb, who made a three-point shot with eight seconds left to send the teams into the locker room six points apart, 40-34.
“Thomas has grown up a lot in the last year and a half,” Head Coach Sydney Johnson said. “He’s a smart kid and plays real hard. He’s the type of kid I want to see on my team. For him to make that effort on the steal along with other plays he made against Iona and Monmouth, I am just so proud of his development. He’s the type of kid that can be a real spark and I am just so proud of him.”
The play was just the spark that Fairfield needed and provided the Stags with a surge of momentum that would carry into the second half.
“It is a game of runs and that was a nice momentum play for us,” Johnson said. “But I like was that it was from a defensive play. I think the team’s effort on defense in practice over the last few days showed itself in that sequence. And when it happened, the guys saw that hard work can lead to momentum plays which in turn helped their confidence.”
Kasibabu was a big part of that defensive effort today by limiting and altering shots with his presence in the paint.
“He was inspired today,” Johnson said. “He is a program changing recruit with all that he brings to the court. He got back to what makes him good which is playing really, really hard and that inspires the guys around him. He was really focused before the game so no one is surprised on our team by the impassioned effort he had on defense today.”
Leading 40-34 at halftime, Brian Parker scored the opening points of the second half for Marist to push the lead to eight points. Cobb answered that basket by connecting on another three pointer which started a 24-6 Fairfield run. Khalid Hart’s layup made it a seven-point game before Fairfield scored 14 of the next 16 points to take its biggest lead to that point, 51-46. Jerry Johnson Jr. scored six of those 14 points with Nelson chipping in for five points during the run.
Marist brought the deficit back to three points following Isaiah Lamb’s layup before the Stags answered with nine straight points to take their biggest lead of the game, 60-48, behind five more points from Nelson. The Red Foxes were able to come as close as six point with two minutes remaining, 63-57, but the Stags were able to push the advantage back to 12 points, 69-57, with 42 seconds remaining.
Nelson led all scorers with 21 points while Cobb added 20 points for the Stags. Jerry Johnson Jr. tallied 14 points and secured seven rebounds as a starter for Fairfield. Lamb came off the bench to lead all Marist scorers with 14 points.
The Stags continue their four-game home stand on Tuesday, January 31 when they host Manhattan College at 7 pm.