HAMDEN, Conn. – The odds are astronomical. The same two teams, playing on the same court three years in a row and every one of those match ups go to overtime. That was the case on Friday night when the Fairfield University men’s basketball team finished its season series with Quinnipiac University. And fortunately for Fairfield fans, the Stags won for the third straight time at TD Bank Sports Complex, posting an 89-86 win in overtime.
At one point, it looked as though this game had no reason to go into extra time as the Stags held a double-digit lead for most of the second half. Then, it looked this game had no reason to go to overtime because Quinnipiac held a two-point lead with three seconds left and the Stags needed to go the full length of the court to tie it. And the chances of both teams overcoming those hurdles to bring about overtime, well let’s just say the odds were astronomical.
The Stags led for 40 minutes in this game including all but a few seconds of the extra period. Fairfield led by 16 points in the first half and 12 points with just under six minutes remaining in the second half, seemingly putting the Stags in place for their 14th win of the season. But Quinnipiac, which erased a double-digit second-half lead to win in the first meeting with Fairfield, used a 16-1 run to take what appeared to be an insurmountable lead at 77-74 with nine seconds remaining.
Curtis Cobb stepped to the line and made a pair of free throws to cut the lead to one point with five second left. The Stags fouled immediately which led to one more Quinnipiac free throw, making it a two point game at 78-76 with three seconds left. Cobb took the inbound pass and sent the ball up to Amadou Sidibe, who caught the pass at the top of the key. He found Tyler Nelson cutting to the basket who caught Sidibe’s pass in stride and went to the basket for a layup with one-tenth of a second on the clock.
“We didn’t have any timeouts left so we were really just trying to get the ball in and get to the basket,” Nelson said. “Curtis made a smart play and threw the ball all the way up to the three-point line. I was being face guarded so my instincts were just to run to the rim. My defender was behind me and I caught it on the run and I went to the basket for a layup. It really could not have worked out any better.”
In overtime, Peter Kiss, who scored the go ahead points for Quinnipiac in regulation, broke the tie when he made one of two free throws to start the period. Johnson Jr. pushed the Stags in front with a jumper and followed with a three-point field goal on the next possession to push Fairfield in front, 83-79. The Bobcats came within a point following a three-point play from Mikey Dixon, 83-82, before Nelson’s two free throws allowed Fairfield to add to its lead. Johnson Jr. followed with another jumper on Fairfield’s next possession to regain control of the game.
Nelson and Sidibe were instrumental in the Stags early success as Nelson tied his career high with 10 assists in the first half, while Sidibe gained his third straight double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds over the first 20 minutes of the game. With their efforts, Fairfield was able to carry a 12-point lead into halftime, 42-30.
The second half started equally as well for Fairfield as the Stags were able to lead by double figures on a couple of occasions, the last of which was 67-53 with 10:20 on the clock. But it was at that point that Quinnipiac began its comeback required the late heroics from Nelson and Johnson Jr.
Nelson finished the game with 24 points and 12 assists, his second double-double in the last five games, while Sidibe added 16 points and 12 rebounds before foul trouble kept him off the court late in the game. Johnson Jr. posted 19 points in his 43 minutes of work, netting 11 points in the first half and eight in the overtime.
Fairfield returns to the court on Sunday for an afternoon game with Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City. Game time is scheduled for 2 pm.