All dressed in pink for their annual Play4Kay game on Thursday, Feb. 16, the Stags (14-12, 11-6) were left feeling blue as the Marist Red Foxes (12-15, 9-8) toppled Fairfield’s five-game winning streak by a score of 68-62.
The game — which benefitted the Kay Yow Cancer Fund that honors former North Carolina State University head women’s basketball coach Kay Yow — saw the Stags’ early fire quickly doused by a Marist offense that was dominated by sophomore guard Maura Fitzpatrick. A steal and field goal by Fitzpatrick ignited an 8-3 Marist run over the final five minutes and 20 seconds of the half. She also knocked down each of her three three-point attempts in the quarter, en route to finishing the game with 22 points. Marist carried a 34-26 lead into halftime.
For as good Marist’s offense was in the second quarter, it was their defense that frustrated Fairfield the most. The Stags were held to 36.5 percent shooting for the game by the Red Foxes’ stifling defense, including just 21 percent in the deciding second quarter.
Fairfield, however, kept making runs to keep the game close despite their shooting struggles. Senior Kelsey Carey muscled her way to a 20-point, 13-rebound double-double, posting her seventh 20-point game this season. Fellow Stag Samantha Cooper ‘18 earned a double-double of her own, securing 10 rebounds and 13 total points on the night.
Yet, Fairfield’s efforts fell short: although the Stags outscored the Red Foxes in three out of four quarters, Marist’s persistent defensive pressure on Fairfield held them to 16 points or fewer in all quarters but the fourth.
Fairfield head coach Joe Frager said that this pressure inflicted by Marist was likely the cause of some of the Stags’ offensive woes, which all began in the second quarter.
“The second quarter, I think we took some ill-advised shots,” he said. “I think sometimes, when you struggle on offense, that has an impact on what you’re doing mentally and emotionally on the defensive end of the floor. And I thought we had two or three really bad defensive breakdowns where they hit a flurry of threes right before the end of the second quarter and consequently, Marist had that nice lead going into the locker room.”
With Fairfield’s first loss since Jan. 26 and their second loss of the season to their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rival, Frager said he doesn’t want the team to dwell on the Marist loss, especially heading into their final road game of the season against Iona College on Sunday, Feb. 19.
“We have to reflect on this game, but we can’t carry this forward with us. We have to use this as a learning tool, but we have to move on to the next game,” he said. “Our biggest problem now is if we take our dejection over this game and let it impact the way we prepare for Iona. We’ve got to be pointed about the mistakes we made and really work to correct those, but we really just have to look forward to the next opponent.”