Fairfield was the favorite coming into the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament at their home court in Bridgeport, CT. They dominated the MAAC Conference regular season with a 15-3 record and held a 23-6 overall mark. Now after a 62-48 loss in the MAAC semi-finals they live on the outer edge of the NCAA bubble and depend on a conference automatic bid into the NIT to continue their season.
How did it happen. Fairfeld was shooting poorly going into the game witnessed in their 74-69 regular season ending loss at Iona. Their coach Ed Cooley felt the late season loss would make little difference when Fairfeld played in front of hometown fans in Bridgeport. He looked forward to playing in the MAAC title game against Iona or who ever emerged.
Then Saint Peter's happen.
Saint Peter's the gritty team from Jersey City, New Jersey came in fourth in the MAAC with a 11-7 record and a 17-13 record. After season ending losses to Iona and Rider they came to play in Bridgeport and defeated Loyola in the first round 70-69.
Saint Peter's played a dream first half against Fairfield shooting 58 percent from the field while holding the Stags to 22 percent field goal completion. At the half Saint Peters held an astounding 25 point lead of 40-15.
In the second Fairfield made a charge to break a 40-20 deficit with 17:00 to play to 42-34 at 8:25 left with an excited crowd urging them on. Then with 5:21 and the Peacocks steadying themselves, guard Stephen Samuels led a 4-0 run that put them back to a twelve point lead at 50-38.
On the day, Jeron Belin came off the bench to score 15 points and seven rebounds lead Saint Peter's. Wesley Jenkins had 14 points and forward Ryan Bacon had ten points and six rebounds. Guard Leon Nicks had 11 points and five assists.
Fairfield shot better in their second half comeback at 40 percent but it was not enough. Forward Yorel Hawkins led the Stags with 17 points and nine rebounds.
This will be a game the Fairfield team will lament for a long time but Saint Peters will rejoice in.
At the half Iona leads Rider 38-30.