BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – If there was one theme that seemed to point to the Fairfield University men’s basketball team’s win over Manhattan College, it would be defense. The Stags held the Jaspers to no field goals for 10 minutes during the second half and just five total over the final 20 minutes, enabling the team to post a 78-49 victory at Webster Bank Arena.
“The last three halves we played – the second half of Marist and the two halves tonight - really showed out commitment to team defense,” Head Coach Sydney Johnson said. “Right before we went on the court tonight, we told them (the team) we need to pick up where we left off against Marist. And the first four minutes tonight, I thought we were outstanding defensively and we were really locked in.”
That defense led to 21 points off 15 Manhattan turnovers, which complimented the Stags’ ability to turn their 14 offensive rebounds into 21 second-chance points. And at the heart of those offensive rebounding efforts was freshman Deniz Celen, who just missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds which included a team-high five offensive rebounds.
While the defense provided opportunity, Curtis Cobb and Tyler Nelson capitalized on those chances, registering 22 and 20 points, respectively. Cobb, who scored a school-record 46 points against the Jaspers in this season’s first meeting, seemed poised for another big night when he scored 16 of the team’s first 21 points. His quick start enabled Fairfield to take a double-digit lead 10 minutes into the game at 21-10. Manhattan cut the lead to nine points on two occasions, the last of which came at the 6:57 mark at 23-14. Celen’s tip-in pushed the advantage back to 11 points and the Jaspers would trail by double figures the rest of the way.
Celen’s basket also started an 11-1 run that would give his teammates a 21-point lead at 36-15 with three minutes remaining, which would eventually become a 22-point halftime lead at 43-21. Cobb finished the first 20 minutes with 18 points while Nelson netted 14 points. The duo was also perfect from behind the three-point line as Nelson made all four of his long-range jumpers and Nelson connected on both of his shots from behind the arc.
Nelson added to his perfect start from three-point range by opening the second half with his fifth shot from beyond the line. The junior would add one more three pointer before his first miss from long range. With 10 minutes left in the game, Fairfield would improve its lead to 30 points after Cobb’s driving layup made the score 62-32. Fairfield’s lead reached its crest at 33 points, the firs36 and again at coming at 69-36 and again at 71-38.
Jonathan Kasibabu posted 13 points off the bench by hitting five of his eight shots from the field, including his only three-point attempt. Zavier Turner paced the Manhattan offense with 11 points, while Na’Quan Council also reached double figures with 10 points.
Fairfield will continue its home stand when it hosts Niagara University at Webster Bank Arena. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 with game time slated for 8 pm. The home stand comes to an end next Monday when the Stags host Quinnpiac University at 7 pm.