FAIRFIELD -- Fairfield Prep's 10th win in a row to start the season had its moments of doubt early on. Yet once Prep's senior co-captain and guard Dave Zielinski warmed up from outside, visiting Xavier's defense lost its effectiveness and the Jesuits kept pulling away for a 73-41 victory in an SCC game Friday night at Fairfield University's Alumni Hall.
The Jesuits, rated No. 1 in statewide polls, shrugged off a 10-7 deficit entering the second quarter behind Zielinski, who scored a game-high 21 points. He drained one 3-pointer in the first quarter, knocked down three in the second quarter and added a pair in the third quarter.
Prep improved to 7-0 in the conference with the win. Meanwhile the Falcons -- playing without their ace, junior guard Elijah Pemberton, who was out with the flu -- lost hold of a five-game winning streak. Xavier dropped to 7-2 overall and 6-1 in the SCC.
Zielinski had 15 points heading into the halftime break, scoring 12 in the second quarter when the Jesuits turned a five-point deficit -- Xavier got the opening basket of the second quarter -- into a 37-26 lead at the end of the half. Paschal Chukwu added 17 points for the Jesuits, who received double-digit scoring from Keith Pettway (14 points) and Tommy Nolan (10) as well. Brandon MacPherson paced the Xavier offense with 12 points, on a pair of 3-pointers, and Thomas Jackson added 11 points.
"We started out with low intensity, and we had to pick it up," Zielinski said. "We just came out with a lot more intensity for the second half."
Prep outscored Xavier by 29-8 in the third quarter. Its 66-34 lead beginning the fourth quarter was not challenged.
Prep coach Leo Redgate pointed out to two adjustments the Jesuits made for the second quarter, one on each end of the court. The change on offense against Xavier's zone defense led to the ball being fed outside to Zielinski, who capitalized from beyond the arc when given space and time.
"And we were picking it up defensively," Redgate said of the pivotal second-quarter surge, which resulted in Prep outscoring Xavier by 30-16 in that period. "We were trapping. Our rotation was faster, and we attacked (Xavier) more. We got into the passing lanes, and we were able to get some turnovers."
But Prep's long-range shooting accuracy -- one 3-pointer each was made by Pettway, Nolan and Ryan Foley -- stood out as what changed the dynamic, Xavier coach Michael Kohs said.
"It got out of hand pretty quick. Their 3s, that was the killer," Kohs said. "They're deep, and their guards can really shoot. We're not the deepest team in the world. And I'm not sure if we made a shot in the third quarter. We went cold for four or five minutes."
Actually, the Xavier drought -- prolonged by Prep's tight defense -- lasted for 6:06, between MacPherson's basket 14 seconds into the third quarter and Jackson's layup with 1:40 to go.
Xavier had trouble penetrating, with the dribble and with passes inside, and drew precious few fouls. Jackson was 1-for-3 from the free-throw line, the only Falcons' player to take a foul shot.
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Brandon MacPherson 5 0-0 12 Thomas Jackson 5 1-3 11 Kaleb Lutton 3 0-0 6 Alex White 1 0-0 2 Joe McCormack 2 0-0 4 Karl Sturm 1 0-0 2 Scott Marks 2 0-0 4 Daniel Draffan 0 0-0 0 Tyler Williams 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 1-3 41.
FAIRFIELD PREP (10-0)
Paschal Chukwu 7 3-6 17 Dave Zielinski 7 1-1 21 Keith Pettway 5 3-3 14 Tommy Nolan 4 1-3 10 Ryan Foley 3 0-0 7 Ray Featherston 2 0-0 4 Joe DiGennaro 0 0-0 0 Drew Rolapp 0 0-0 0 Tate Duran 0 0-0 0. Totals: 28 8-13 73.
XAVIER 10 16 8 7--41
FAIRFIELD PREP 7 30 29 7--73
3-pointers: X--MacPherson 2; FP--Zielinski 6, Pettway, Nolan, Foley.