Fairfield went nearly 17 minutes without a field goal at the end of the first half and the first 13 minutes of the second, and that, friends, is never good. The end result was an ugly 54-36 to Wofford to open the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Webster Bank Arena Friday night.
Quite frankly, the 36 flattered Fairfield, who took 30 minutes to get to 20 and at one point were 4-of-32 from the floor. But at least they don’t have to sit around and stew over it; the Stags will play twice more this weekend (against Sam Houston St. and South Dakota in quite the diverse exempt tournament).
Here are my thoughts:
- Fairfield’s offense needs work. Or perhaps an overhaul – The Stags scored 12 points and recorded a robust 0.40 points per possession in the first half, which is not good (understatement of month). Amadou Sidibe attempted only two field goals, and the Stags got almost nothing out of starting guards K.J. Rose and Steve Johnston, so little in fact that Sydney Johnson went with freshmen Jerome Segura and Tyler Nelson for about half the game. At one point, Nelson scored five straight points, and can fairly obviously score from the outside, which may necessitate him playing more going forward. “Tyler played a little but more than I expected and Jerome is certainly in the mix for us,” Johnson said. “We’re going to need Tyler because he’s a good a good player.”
- Believe it or not, there were some positives – Defense, for one. Wofford is a very good team that hung 86 points (and a 1.32 ppp) on Iona in the Tip-Off Marathon Tuesday morning. Yet Fairfield forced 13 turnovers and only sent Wofford to the free throw line four times (as well as holding the Terriers to under 1 ppp, a number that was inflated by the Stags needing to pressure toward the end of the contest). Wofford has won the Southern Conference three times in the past five seasons, the other two going to Davidson, who departed for Atlantic-10 after last season. That means that Wofford, led by SoCon Preseason Player of the Year Karl Cochran (who has held to 10 points), is a prohibitive favorite to go back to the NCAA tournament, and the score was close for much of the game (20-12 at half). “It was a winnable game for a long time,” Johnson said. “Into maybe six or seven minutes into the second half, we would right there and then they just stopped missing. We played pretty solid defensively for about 27 minutes and then bang, bang, bang, it was over.”
- There is a little pressure on the next two games – Unlike Wofford, South Dakota (picked eighth of nine teams in the Summit League) and Sam Houston St. (picked third in the Southland) are not teams expected to go to the NCAA tournament, and really should be games Fairfield should be able to pull out on its home floor (although Sam Houston narrowly lost to UNLV last week). Coming off a 7-25 season (its most losses ever), Fairfield needs a little confidence, especially after a game that didn’t really help build any Friday night.