Fairfield 79, Niagara 75
How Fairfield won: By staying calm under pressure. Niagara three times cut its deficit to two points in the second half, but each time the Stags scored the next points to ensure there would be no tie. Fairfield got a huge lift off the bench from Sean Crawford, who entered averaging just 1.6 points per game and finished with a team-high 19. He knocked down two free throws with five seconds left to seal the win.
Turning point: Niagara was doomed by a seven-minute dry spell in the second half. After a long jumper by freshman Juan'ya Green pulled Niagara within three, 60-57, with 8:38 left, the Purple Eagles didn’t score from the field again until a three-pointer by Green with 1:38 to play. By that time, the Stags had rebuilt a double-digit lead, thanks to an 11-1 run.
Player of the game: Easy, even in defeat. Green. He set a freshman record with 35 points, 24 of which came after halftime. He shook off three turnovers in the first half and should be able to build off this performance.
Stat of the game: Fairfield got 27 bench points to Niagara's six.
What it means: Sure, starting 0-1 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference isn't what the Purple Eagles wanted. But they definitely learned they can play with the top teams in the league (Fairfield was picked to finish second in the league's preseason poll). It's up to them now to build on the positives.
They said it: "I wasn’t sure if all the guys believed in themselves, because why should they? They haven’t done anything yet. They’re freshmen. It’s new to them. You’ve got to do some things so you can get some confidence. Now, I think we believe in ourselves." -- Niagara coach Joe Mihalich
In the house: A mediocre crowd of 1,520.
Next up:The Purple Eagles stay home to meet the preseason No. 1 team in the MAAC, Iona, at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Gallagher Center.
taggedBig 4 | Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference | NCAA | Niagara