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Rider 65 Fairfield 62 - recap and photos.

Box Score

Postgame audio - Coach Sydney Johnson & Maurice Barrow:

Battling back from down 13 points with 14:17 to go, Fairfield (17-13) was able to pull even at 55 against Rider (13-18) on a pair of Maurice Barrow free throws, but could not convert three prime chances in the last minute to either win the game or send the afternoon to overtime.

Barrow missed a pair of free throws – one long, one short - after being fouled on a drop step with :46 remaining and the Stags behind 63-62.

Then, out of a time out nine seconds later the Broncs went immediately inside to Novar Gadson for a quick righty flip and a three point game.

Unlike Princeton at Harvard on Friday, Fairfield opted against the quick two and subsequent foul. Rakim Sanders, who scored 13 of his team best 17 in the second half on a series of strong drives, got a good look on the left wing yet the tying try went in and out.

Rider’s Junior Fortunat was fouled but left both his attempts off the front rim and the Stags got one final opportunities at drawing even. As the clock ticked down from nine Sanders pulled up for a three that sailed long.

The ball bounded into the Fairfield bench while time expired.

Photos from today’s game courtesy Robert Solomon.

Recap continues after the jump.

Sanders was 0-7 for three on Sunday, his team 4-23 overall. The Stags has more success driving but often settled for outside jumpers versus the Rider zone. Fairfield scored 42 points in the paint and recorded 22 second chance scores because of 19 offensive rebounds.

It was a tough loss for Sydney Johnson’s team, who played without starting point guard Derek Needham, injured against Iona on Friday night and likely lost for the season.

By falling to Rider as they learn on the fly to adjust to life without the ball in Needham’s hands, Fairfield slips into a 4/5 seed rematch on a neutral court with the Broncs, which will be held on Saturday at 2:30 pm ET in the quarterfinals of the MAAC Tournament.

After starting their season 1-10 including a loss at the buzzer in OT to Princeton, the Broncs regrouped in conference play, putting up 10 victories in 18 games.

Johnson’s Mercer County homecoming may have resulted in his team’s second straight loss to close the regular season but the game was played in front of a cross-section of familiar faces from Coach Pete Carril and John Thompson III’s mother to Roger Gordon, Hank Towns and Stan Adleson, current Tiger Patrick Saunders, former team manager Lawrence Schuler, Director of Dining Services Stu Orefice and even Larry who runs the clock during Princeton practices.

It was Carril’s first chance to see Fairfield in person with Johnson at the helm. “Coach came up to a practice early in the year. It was a treat for him to see the guys,” Johnson said. “Of course they don’t know who he is. We’ve got to fix that.”

“There were a lot of people in that gym that meant a lot to me as a student athlete,” Johnson added. “To have them here supporting us and finding it in themselves to wear a little bit of red was pretty special. I was really happy to see Coach and a number of other people.”

Roger Gordon checks out his new Fairfield swag sitting next to Pete Carril.

Coach Johnson with a glare.

Jamel Fields.

Ryan Olander goes for a block.

The only other person to make the Hanover -> Lawrenceville trip, Patrick Saunders along with Stu Orefice.

Desmond Wade.

Rakim Sanders speaks with Coach Johnson.

Martin Bahar looks back on the Stags' bench.

Maurice Barrow.

Pete Carril has the best seat in the house.

Sean Crawford in the lane.

Johnson in the huddle.

Olander for three. The Stags' 7'0" starting senior center was scoreless in 23 minutes.

Note to self: Sitting next to Lawrence Schuler makes you look bad.

Assistant coach Tony Newsom.

Sanders dunks.

Roger Gordon, who has sat on or right behind every bench from Princeton to Georgetown to Mercer County Community College.

Crawford for three.

Pat Saunders joins Stan Adleson for a conversation at halftime.

Barrow with the ball.

The Fairfield bench cheers a late rally.

Coach Johnson out on the floor.

Time for Coach Carril to go home.

Bradley Sonneborn said,

February 27, 2012 @ 10:30 am

This is isn't Schadenfreude, but it seems like the Stags have failed to fulfill their promise at 17-13. If Sydney was looking at this as a temporary pit stop before ascending to a major job, did he miscalculate?

Jon Solomon said,

February 27, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

I think, as we've seen with Princeton in 2011-12, it is never as easy to transition to new coach coming from outside a program as everyone (players, staff, fans, family) hope it will be.

Fairfield had been playing their best basketball of the season the last few weeks (not unlike the Tigers) and were in line for the 2-3 seed in the MAAC (as projected pre-season) before the loss of their point guard for the year hampered efforts against Rider yesterday.

That being said, I think they would love to have a few of their non-conference performances back.


Steven Postrel said,

February 27, 2012 @ 9:14 pm

Strange defensive game for the Stags, judging from the box score. In the first half they give up 50+% shooting (which must have really burned SJ), in the second half they give up only 4 two-point FGs but put Rider on the line for 25 attempts. That sounds like one of those halftime adjustments that solves one problem but creates another.

Jon Solomon said,

February 27, 2012 @ 11:51 pm

I'm curious to see how their MAAC tournament game is called. Rider benefitted from a number of second half whistles that may not come at a neutral site.

In particular, there was one clean long-armed block of a jumper with no body contact (which reminded me of Pawel Buczak's "foul" of Louis Dale in Ithaca a couple years ago) that resulted in two at the line.


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