BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – It may not be the way the Fairfield University men’s basketball team wanted to close out the home portion of its regular season, but no could say that the effort was not there. Despite playing their third game in five days, the Stags played with purpose against Monmouth University, but in the end the Hawks were too much on this night and posted an 82-62 win over the Stags at Webster Bank Arena.
Yes, a 20-point margin may not reflect Fairfield’s effort against Monmouth, but the Stags stayed close in the first half and were within 11 points early in the second half before some of that fatigue from the previous two games certainly showed itself late in the game. Every time the Stags made a run, Monmouth had an answer which most of the time came from the three-point line. The Hawks made 13 of 24 long-range jumpers and those shots always seemed to come at the most inopportune time for Fairfield.
“Sometimes you just wear down especially when you play three games in five days,” Head Coach Sydney Johnson said. “We were not able to capitalize on some really good defense. Offensively, we got some really good looks but we just didn’t knock them down. I was proud of how we competed. They (Monmouth) are the best team in the league and they took advantage of what we did not do.”
Johnson was referring to the fact that the Stags forced Monmouth into an uncharacteristic 10 turnovers in the first half, but they converted on only half of those opportunities. And that lack of conversion allowed Monmouth to turn single-digit leads into double-figure advantages.
Monmouth, which won for the 14th straight time, opened the game with the first of their 13 three pointers and used that as a catalyst to build an early nine-point lead, 17-8, with 15:30 left in the half. Amadou Sidibe helped Fairfield get back in the game with a three-point play and a layup which Tyler Nelson followed with a three-point field goal. By the end of that stretch, the Stags were within four points, 20-16, at the 13:13 mark.
Fairfield would eventually pull within a point late in the half at 32-31 after a pair of free throws by Nelson with 3:56 on the clock. Monmouth responded with 11 straight points including a pair of three-point shots from Louie Pillari that helped the Hawks build a 12-point lead by halftime, 46-34.
The Stags made some progress early in the second half, shaving a point of the lead early, 48-37, after a layup by Jerry Johnson Jr. But two Monmouth three-point field goals sandwiched a Jonathan Kasibabu layup to open the lead to 15 points, the biggest lead to that point. Nelson’s three-pointer brought it back to the halftime deficit, 54-42, before Monmouth strung together seven straight points to gain a 61-42 edge with 14:14 on the clock.
The lead reached 20 points in the final 100 seconds and that’s how the final would stand at 82-62 when time expired.
Nelson finished with a game-high 25 points while Sidibe added 11 points and Johnson Jr. contributed 10 points to the Fairfield cause. Je’lon Hornbeak and Justin Robinson fueled Monmouth’s offense with 18 points each.
The Stags close out the regular season with their annual trek to upstate New York where they will play Canisius College on Friday night and Niagara University on Sunday afternoon.