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Fairfield takes victory at home over UW-Milwaukee

Updated 12:14 am, Thursday, December 13, 2012
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Game glance PLAYER OF THE GAME: Senior guard Derek Needham scored a team-high 13 points with seven assists and just one turnover. WHAT WORKED: The Stags' offense came alive in the second half, starting with a 13-2 run, and shared the wealth. The Stags shot 50 percent (16-for-32) from the field in the half and 41.9 percent overall with six players scoring at least seven points. UP NEXT: Sunday, vs. Drexel at Webster Bank Arena, 4 p.m. -- WILLIAM S. PAXTON
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BRIDGEPORT -- Derek Needham's play might set the tempo for the Fairfield Stags, but a team effort paved the way to victory Wednesday night.

Needham led a balanced offense with 13 points and the Stags rolled to a 62-46 victory over the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in a rematch of last season's BracketBuster in front of 1,572 fans at the Webster Bank Arena.

Fairfield (6-5) finished with six players contributing at least seven points to pick up its first home win of the season. It was the second straight game the Stags had a balanced offense, with five players scoring at least seven points in a 65-52 win against Rider on Sunday.

"I think Derek sets the tone," Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson said. "He's going to lead us in scoring, we just know that. He works on his game, he's a big moment guy, but the way that he's been approaching the game has become contagious.

"He's making the extra pass; he's driving in there and kicking out. ... The way he is playing rubs off on other guys."

After struggling on offense in the first half, but still leading 23-21, the Stags set the second-half tempo by opening with a 13-2 run against UW-Milwaukee (3-8), which beat Fairfield at its home 67-63 last season. Fairfield led by as many as 20 points -- 48-28 -- with 9:15 left in the game.

"Make shots, that was the goal in the second half," said Needham, who finished with seven assists and one turnover. "And we needed to continue to play good defense."

The Stags did just that. They made 10 for 30 (33.3 percent) from the field in the first half, but shot 16 for 32 (50 percent) in the second. They also took good care off the ball with just eight turnovers to go with 18 assists.

In addition to Needham, freshman Amadou Sidibe finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, while Maurice Barrow added 10 points, freshman Justin Jenkins had nine with four assists and Desmond Wade chipped in eight.

"Like coach says, we are following Derek, Colin (Nickerson) and Des' lead," said Sidibe, who was a rebound shy of his second career double-double. "When we get in the game, we have to follow. They came out strong and they motivated us to play hard, so that's what we did."

Kyle Kelm led UW-Milwaukee with 13 points and the Panthers finished shooting 27.7 percent from the field (13-for-47). The Stags scored 18 points off 18 turnovers by the Panthers.

The Panthers twice held a one-point lead in the opening minutes, but freshman Josip Mikulic (seven points) put Fairfield ahead for good with a 3-pointer at 14:36 of the first half to make it 10-8.

"I think we are making some shots, so maybe the offense looks better," Johnson said. "But like Derek said, he's setting the tone, sharing the ball, and I think we have some talent in our locker room.

"As long as we merge that talent with the great leadership that we are getting ... we might have a chance."

NOTE: Fairfield freshman Marcus Gilbert (nose injury) dressed, but did not play. Johnson said he expects to have Gilbert ready to play against Drexel on Sunday before the Stags go on break for exams.

wpaxton@ctpost.com; http://twitter.com/wspaxton; http://blog.ctnews.com/paxton/

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