Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Stags getting ready for key stretch

The Stags are about to enter into a fight to the finish against the middle of the pack of the MAAC. Starting Friday night, Fairfield heads into what should be the most important stretch of the season.

Five out of the next six games for the Stags all come against opponents with MAAC and overall records under .500, with two match-ups against Niagara thrown into the mix as well. Four of those games are at home, including this coming Monday's match-up against St. Peter's.

To establish themselves as a contender in the MAAC tournament down the road, Fairfield will need to win at least four out of these six games. Niagara is an extremely tough team to beat, but in the past few years the Purple Eagles have struggled after the long trip down from Buffalo to Fairfield and that game could provide the Stags an opportunity for an upset.

Getting the Siena series out of the way early could prove to be vital for the Stags post-season seeding, as they caught the Saints at a perfect time, without Alex Franklin. Only Marist and Niagara threaten the Saints top spot in the tournament and the win over them could give the Stags confidence if they happen to meet down the line.

Fairfield plays Rider twice and Marist once more, as well as the Niagara series, but have winnable games against Manhattan (twice), Iona (twice), St. Peter's (who they have already defeated on the road), and Canisius (twice). Iona, Manhattan, and Canisius will all play tough at home, but the Stags have not been intimidated on the road in the MAAC so far, with all three of their conference victories coming on the road.

Fairfield needs to find consistency to survive this stretch and put themselves in position for a fourth or fifth place finish. Each game one player has had a big game, but Fairfield needs a consistent scoring option and another player who can give them about ten per game. Jonathan Han has been a great point guard, but he is not consistent enough to be that scorer, neither is Mike Evanovich, who is much to much of a streaky shooter to average about 15-20 per game.

Big sophomores Greg Nero and Anthony Johnson need to step-up and fill those roles of consistent scoring and seem to be getting near that point. With the two of them scoring 10-20 per game and Evanovich, Han, and Herbie Allen rotating as a third option, the Stags will come out of this stretch with at least four wins.

Look for a practice update tomorrow, along with a preview of Friday night's game against Iona.

-Tom Cleary

(Credit SPM Sportspage for photo - Click on picture for link to site)


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