FINAL: Fairfield 57, Niagara 49
Looks like we'll have less than the usual near-capacity crowd in the behind-the-bench seating at Taps today. Could it be because the area's favorite son is playing in the NFC title game at 3?
Niagara again without Kashief Edwards (scope). Fairfield held Niagara to 14 first-half point in 70-48 romp in Connecticutt Jan. 3. Stags are one of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's premier defensive teams, so this is going to be a major challenge for Purple Eagles.
Fairfield 28, Niagara 23, 15:34 left: Turnovers hurting Niagara. Only basket a three by Jordan. Yorel Hawkins just threw down an alley-oop off Needham feed. Purple Eagles 1 of 4 with three giveaways. Stags have hit on 4 of 6 this half.
Fairfield 34, Niagara 27, 11:24 to go: Stags had lead up as high as nine. Fairfield doing much better job attacking Niagara's 2-3 zone with cutters through the paint. Rebounding becoming a huge problem for Niagara (Fairfield, 32-20, with 12 offensive).
Fairfield 38, Niagara 27: 7-footer Ryan Olander hits a short hook and feeds Lyndon Jordan for a layup and Stags having their way.
Fairfield 42, Niagara 35 5:55: Niagara still hanging despite just three second-half field goals.
We're 5:05 in and Niagara's still looking for first points. Senior forward Yorel Hawkins has four as Stags lead, 6-0. Purple Eagles Skylar Jones' has rimmed out a couple of threes and Erik Williams missed from close in with 7-footer Ryan Olander lurking. Niagara 0-5 FG with four turnovers.
Fairfield 10, Niagara 4, 11:11 left:: Marvin Jordan going to line for Niagara. Fairfield man-to-man and half-court traps causing Purple Eagles all kinds of grief. Niagara 2 of 10 from field, Fairfield 5 of 14. Stags own boards, 11-6, and Niagara hasn't an offensive rebound.
Niagara 14, Fairfield 10, 7:57 left: That's right. Niagara has ripped off 10 straight and is beating Stags upcourt in transition. Skylar Jones tied game with a three as shot clock expired and Javon Moore followed with a pair of fast-break layups. Run took place with Fairfield's offensive glue, Derek Needham, on bench. He's checking back in.
Niagara 21, Fairfield 18, 2:56 left: Niagara getting nice effort out of Javon Moore.
Halftime: Niagara 21, Fairfield 19: Yes, we're playing with a shot clock. Niagara 9 of 24 FG (2 of 9 from three). Fairfiled 7-27 and 0-5. Moore leads all scorers with nine followed by Jordan with eight. Needham (ave 14.1) has just one for Stags. Purple Eagles shortening game by running clock out of half-court set but they're also pushing tempo off defensive rebounds, and with pretty good success.
-- Bob DiCesare