Men's basketball comes up short in MAAC semifinal setback against Saint Peter's


 

Image: MAAC semifinalPride. It's a word that is thrown around the athletic world with the hopes that it sticks. That's what Head Coach Ed Cooley and senior Yorel Hawkins talked about following the men's basketball team's 62-48 MAAC tournament semifinal loss to Saint Peter's College on Sunday afternoon.

I don't want this loss today to take a way from the season that we had this year, Cooley said after the game. Don't misunderstand - we want to win championships not finish in second or third place. But I am proud of the success we have had and of our seniors who have helped us build this program into the type that can win 20 games in consecutive year.

You could see the pride in the eyes of the Stags as they tried to erase a 25-point halftime deficit with their tenacious defense. And, it almost worked as Fairfield pulled with six points in the second half. But it would have taken what Coach Cooley called a perfect half to come back from that type of deficit.

Everything needs to fall in place in order to come back from being 25 points down, Cooley said. We nearly pulled it off though. But in the end, turnovers plagued us and that's a problem we seemed to have this season.

That 25-point lead was built mainly at the end of the first half when the Peacocks used an 18-1 run to close the half, turning a 22-14 advantage into a 40-15 cushion by intermission. Saint Peter's earned that lead with by shooting 58 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, a number which has not been the norm against one of the nation's best defense. Fairfield entered this game as the fifth best scoring defense in Division I.

But just as Saint Peter's finished the first half with a flourish, the Stags opened the second half with a similar stretch. Fairfield scored 21 of the first 23 points of the second half over the first 12 minutes of the half to pull within six points at 42-36. Hawkins scored 10 points, while Jamel Fields added six points in the run.

With the score 44-38, Steven Samuels picked up back-to-back steals that led to four Peacock points that regained a double-digit lead at 48-38 with 5:45 remaining. Fairfield was never able to pull closer than 10 points the rest of the way, as Saint Peter's ended a 12-game losing streak against the Stags.

What shouldn't be lost in the final result is the fact that Hawkins became the 38th Fairfield student-athlete to reach the 1,000-point mark. But Hawkins did not focus on his individual achievement. Instead, he talked about his sense of pride of being part of a basketball program on the up swing.

I am proud of being part of this program and helping bring it to the point where we won a regular-season championship, Hawkins said. I am proud of how we built something that got the attention of the community and the campus. It's great to know that this program will continue to grow under Coach Cooley, and we (seniors) helped start that.

And as that community of alumni, students, and fans filed out of the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard on Sunday afternoon, you could see the pride in them through the sea of red shirts and painted faces that they wore throughout the season.

That was something that had not existed in recent seasons. It looks like the pride has stuck.

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Media Contact: Jack Jones, (203) 254-4116

Posted on March 6, 2011