- Professor Petrovsky, Rounders
FAIRFIELD, Conn. - We live for the amazing, the unexpected, the moments that defy explanation. When we finally see them, we just look on in wonder and amazement.
But that wonder and amazement isn't necessarily in a positive way every time.
Playing its first conference game on campus in more than a decade, Fairfield came into Tuesday night's game at ancient Alumni Hall winners
of five straight and moving their way into MAAC contention. Freshman Amadou Sidibe made a layup with 16:37 left in the first half to put the Stags up 7-2 over Manhattan. A minute later, Colin Nickerson hit one-of-two free throws to put Fairfield up 8-4.
Then the ridiculous happened.
In 11 minutes, 18 seconds of game time, Fairfield would attempt 18 field goals and two free throws. They would turn the ball over six times.
And they would score no points.
There were contested layups, uncontested layups, open
jump shots, three-point tries for short and long, runners and non-runners. Shots that barely drew iron, a couple that rolled around the rim before rolling off, and even an airball.
The Fairfield coaches originally tried to stay calm, but by the end, Associate Head Coach Tony Newsom was on the floor trying to snap a clearly stunned Sidibe out of his stupor after a missed layup.
All of this made the more extraordinary because this was a gym where Fairfield practices plenty, unlike their usual home, Webster Bank Arena. Logic would dictate the Stags should be used to the angles and quirks and rims
. But Our Game doesn't really deal in logic too often, does it?
Maurice Barrow's foul-line jumper with 4:07 to go in the half finally broke the streak, to a mock cheer from the Alumni Hall crowd. It didn't get a whole lot better after that, as Manhattan took a 34-13 lead into the locker room, and the game - despite an early second half run from Fairfield that put a slight scare into the Jaspers - was essentially over.
After making two of its first three shots from the field, Fairfield made just 2-of-26 the rest of the first half, or one less that the student who came out at halftime and won
an I-pad by hitting three straight shots (there was no foot-on-the-line controversy that I could see).
Just one of those days for Sydney Johnson and Fairfield, the type of game that illustrates how difficult consistency is in Our Game, and how one bad afternoon or evening - as we'll see in a few weeks - could spell the end. Fairfield could consider themselves fortunate in the timing of such an outing, at least.
(Of course, I'm tempted to blame this as the problem, too
, but that's just a reflex of mine.)
Sadly for me, this type of showing may dissuade Fairfield from coming back to their campus for a big game anytime soon. It was tough, as the game had been postponed twice and there was really only 24 hours of notice, so Alumni Hall was about half full, although there was a better-than-average student
section that never really got a chance to get going.
There's some vague talk that they might try to remodel Alumni Hall into a 4,000-seat facility, which would be a dream for me, but it's still years off. And so back to Webster Bank Arena for me, although it looks like Fairfield and I may not see each other until the MAAC Tournament in Springfield in a few weeks. It's getting toward that time of year.
With general admission
seating, I took a place behind the Manhattan bench and marveled at the energy and the general scowl of coach Steve Masiello. I've mentioned in earlier recaps that Masiello has looked a bit humbled this season
, injuries - including a season-ending one to leading scorer George Beamon - left the Jaspers searching for an offensive identity - left Manhattan at just 5-14 (2-5 in the MAAC) after a Jan. 25 home loss to Loyola in which they scored just 41 points.
But whether Masiello figured it out intentionally or accidentally, we cannot run from who we are, and although I (and others here in the Mid-majority
) despise some of his antics and general demeanor on the sidelines, it's who he is.
And when things are right, his team plays a style that may be ugly to the purist, but works. The first day of physics class, you're taught that for every effect there is a cause, and the primary cause of Fairfield's troubles was Manhattan's chaos. Masiello threw bodies (almost literally) on the floor at almost every stoppage, and with his style, there was one almost every few seconds. Both teams picked up plenty of fouls, but Manhattan just kept coming, contesting everything, everywhere on the floor, and Fairfield just couldn't deal with it.
The Jaspers have won four of five to climb back to .500 in the MAAC, and we probably won't see the calm Masiello the rest of the way, unfortunately.
(My seats were right next to Masiello's parents, who made the trip to Fairfield. If you want to know where he gets it from, here is the first Google search for "steve masiello father"
. Ironically, that car accident couldn't have been more than two blocks in Lexington from where I had mine a couple of months ago. So we have that in common.)
With the game now out of hand, my mind wandered, as it has a propensity to do. In the last three years of going to Stags games, Fairfield was always clearly Title-R compliant. It's a tough concept to explain to some unfamiliar to the Mid-majority, at least in a semi-professional context. It's easy to misconstrue your intentions, or to fail to understand that we really don't take ourselves all that seriously most of the time.
But as perhaps the final Fairfield game I'll see for the Mid-majority got the final media time out, it was time for the T-shirt toss. Fairfield's redheaded cheerleading captain, who has been a mainstay of the squad, looked at a younger kid in the stands and made a pretty darn good throw right in his hands.
I decided to risk complete embarrassment by introducing myself to what was clearly her family sitting next to me as they said goodbye to her and got up to leave.
Taylor Wilkes is a four-year Fairfield cheerleading member who will graduate in May and look to stay in sports through marketing if she can. She interned with Puma last summer, and there was good reason for the above-average T-shirt throw, in addition to cheerleading, she played softball and basketball in high school back in New Hampshire.
Her cheerleading duties take up more time than just home basketball games, between practice, school-sponsored events (including those for charity), and promotional appearances for Fairfield (she has a prominent role in the pregame video they show at Webster Bank Arena before every game), being a Division I cheerleader is not as easy as it looks.
Like most others in Alumni Hall, she was confused by her team's performance, but showed optimism that it was a one-day illness.
But you want dedication? Taylor's father and brother had driven all the way from Nashua, N.H. just to watch her cheer at one of her final games. And they hung around a few extra minutes just to let me take a picture of them for the Mid-majority.
Our Game goes well beyond what we see on the court for 40 minutes on a gameday.