BRIDGEPORT – The Fairfield basketball team stuck its flag in the Fairfield County hardwood Saturday night.
The Stags, playing on their home court at Webster Bank Arena as the host of the Connecticut 6 Classic, defeated crosstown rival Sacred Heart 67-54.
The game was played before 5,060 – the largest crowd in Connecticut 6 history. Attendance was considerably lower for the first two games, Quinnipiac’s victory over Hartford and Yale’s victory over Central Connecticut.
Maurice Barrow had 14 points and nine rebounds for Fairfield, which trailed 16-6 but went on a 27-4 run to take control late in the first half. Marcus Gilbert had 11 points and seven rebounds. His brother Malcolm Gilbert, a transfer from Pittsburgh, had five points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks.
Louis Montes had 19 points and Evan Kelley eight for Sacred Heart.
The final matchup of the annual tripleheader had the most sizzle, as fans of these neighboring rivals created a loud and colorful atmosphere. Sacred Heart fans, dressed in red, gathered in one corner of the arena. Fairfield fans, dressed in white, gathered in the other.
“Sacred Heart brought their contingent but it wasn't louder or better than ours,” Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson said. “To see all those white shirts up there and know it was our student body, I was really fired up about that. That's why I was even a little more anxious about our start because I didn't want to disappoint them.”
This was the first game as a head coach for Sacred Heart’s Anthony Latina, the Hartford native and longtime assistant. Former coach Dave Bike, who retired in the offseason after 35 years, sat a few rows behind the Sacred Heart bench.
“I told our guys we had a great opportunity to play in front of a lot of people,” Latina said. “We had a great turnout. Students came out like I've never seen in the eight years I've been here [as an assistant]. I'm disappointed we didn't give them a better show.”
This was just the fifth meeting between the programs and the first since the 2010 Connecticut 6 Classic at Mohegan Sun Arena. Fairfield has won all five games.
With Barrow, the Gilberts, Amadou Sidibe and even guards such as KJ Rose and Sean Grennan, Fairfield had too much length for Sacred Heart. Fairfield had 46-31 rebounding edge and won handily despite commiting 26 turnovers. The Stags shot 51.2 percent, blocked 10 shots and held Sacred Heart to 24.6 percent (15-for-61).
“When [they] block 10 shots, you're 0-for-10 to start the game, before you can get a ball to the rim,” Latina said. “You have to give Fairfield credit, but we need to do a better job of throwing extra passes. We were getting out in transition [early], then they did a good job of scoring and kind of slowed us down. It became a half-court game, which proved to be to their advantage. It's almost impossible to win a game when you're shooting 24 percent.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun