Thursday, January 24, 2008

Stags' Key Stretch Begins Tomorrow

Ed Cooley walked away from the court, shaking his head and looking around the building, perhaps searching the rafters of the Hynes Center to find some answers. His son, Isaiah, who had sat courtside behind his dad, ran along the benches to meet his father, confused with his father's actions.

Make that two confused Cooleys.

It wasn't that a road loss to a well-rested Iona team was the end of the world; it was the team's mannerisms. A four-point game at half turned into a sloppy display of defense. Poor perimeter coverage made Milan Prodanovic (five consecutive three-point shots to start in the second half) look like the second-coming of J.J. Redick. Constant turnovers left the Stags without momentum on the court.

When the Stags hit a shot, the Gaels answered. It was that kind of night.

After the game, Cooley summed it up easily: "Right now we're a team trying to find that identity".

The road back to finding an identity for Fairfield began with a 70-64 victory over St. Peter's at Alumni Hall, one that was certainly not easy but a win nonetheless. The Stags expected to win, and finally did win a game in which they were the "alleged" favorites.

Cooley was still not pleased. "We were too unselfish," said Cooley. "We need to do a better job defensively". For the coach of a young, promising bunch of up-and-comers still looking to mesh, it seems as if the head coach wants to instill the notion that simply winning is not good enough. To be great, you can't just get by.

A critical stretch begins tomorrow night at Harbor Yard, as the Stags begin a series against Canisius Golden Griffs. It is no secret that the Griffs have struggled mightily this season (only one MAAC win). With Niagara games in between both Canisius contests, the Stags would love to sweep the Griffs and build off the momentum of the Alumni Hall win. In an ideal Fairfield world, the Stags could potentially split games with the Purple Eagles or better (not too out of the question given Niagara's play of late).

As we have seen all season, though, it mainly comes down to the Stags team we see on the court this weekend against the MAAC's Buffalo tandem. Is it the Stags' team that showed flashes of brilliance against St. Pete's?

Or the team that a confused head coach walked away from last Friday night?

- Keith Connors

[Photo Credit: Fairfield University S.I.D.]

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