Fairfield men accept bid for postseason play
FAIRFIELD — The Fairfield University men’s basketball team accepted an invitation to the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament and will host the University of New Hampshire on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Alumni Hall.
“We are excited to have Fairfield University in the 2016 College Insider Tournament,” said Angelo Lento, co-founder of CollegeInsider.com. “Sydney Johnson’s Stags finished the season strong and Marcus Gilbert is one of the best-kept secrets in college basketball.”
Fairfield Coach Sydney Johnson led his squad to a 19-13 record following its semifinal appearance in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament last weekend. The program has won 19 or more games in three of Johnson’s five seasons at the helm, but this year’s team has earned national recognition for its single-season turnaround.
“I am incredibly proud of our team for earning an invitation to the 2016 College Insider Tournament,” Johnson said. “Our guys accomplished the fourth-best turnaround in the country and did so working relentlessly and cohesively as a group. The more we accomplish together, the brighter our future looks.”
The team has ranked consistently in the top five nationally for best turnaround this year, going from seven wins a year ago to 19 victories this season. Fairfield’s turnaround came about through the leadership and play of All-MAAC performers Gilbert and Tyler Nelson, as well as Curtis Cobb, who secured All-Rookie honors following the regular season.
Gilbert leads the team in scoring with 17.0 points per game, which places fifth in the conference. Nelson is not far behind with his 15.9 points per game, a number that ranks eighth in the MAAC. Cobb also resides among the MAAC’s top scorers with 11.1 points per contest, which is good enough for 27th in the conference. With this trio’s scoring prowess, Fairfield rates fourth in the conference with 76.9 points per game.
New Hampshire will enter the CIT with a 19-12 record after reaching the America East semifinals, falling to Vermont 63-56. The Wildcats won eight of their final 11 games, including a split in the conference tourney. The team scored 80 or more points in nine games and won all of those decisions including a 100-66 decision over Worcester State.
Tanner Leissner leads the team in scoring with his 16.0 points per game, which places third in America East. He was named to the All-Tournament team after averaging 21 points and 10.5 rebounds in the two games played by the Wildcats. Jaleen Smith is next in line with 13.1 points per game contest after averaging 15.4 points per game over the team’s last six games.
Fairfield has advanced to postseason play in five of the last seven seasons. The Stags will play in the CIT for the third time under Johnson and fourth time overall, posting a 4-3 record in those four appearances. Fairfield advanced to the CIT semifinals by defeating Yale, Manhattan, and Robert Morris before falling to Mercer in the 2012 tournament. One year later, the team received a bid to the 2013 CIT, but lost in the first round against Kent State.
Fairfield’s first appearance came in the 2010 CIT and it was historic as it set a NCAA postseason record by overcoming a 27-point second-half deficit to defeat George Mason 101-96 in overtime. The team dropped its quarterfinal game a few days later, a 73-55 setback at Creighton.
Tickets for Wednesday’s game are $10, $8 for seniors and $6 for children 12 and under. Additionally, a family pack of 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs and 4 drinks for $40 is available. For more information or to buy tickets, visit FairfieldStags.com/TIX or call the ticket office at 203-254-4136.