By John Cirillo
Jonathan Kasibabu and Curtis Cobb are becoming more and more familiar names in the Fairfield University box score. The pair of rookies shared team-high scoring honors with 14 points apiece to lead the Stags men’s basketball team to a 74-70 win over Rider University on Friday night. Kasibabu added eight rebounds to make his presence felt on the boards, as well, delighting the home crowd at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.
It was the Fairfield’s fourth win in the last five games, and improved the record to 4-4 overall after the 0-3 start. Fairfield is 1-1 in the MAAC. The Broncs fell to 1-7 and 0-2.
A third freshman, Matija Milin, and last year’s MAAC All-Rookie selection Tyler Nelson each had 13 points for Fairfield.
The win came despite the absence of leading scorer Marcus Gilbert, who sat out due to an ankle injury.
Last year, the Stags lost a staggering SEVEN games by one or two points, including three overtime affairs. This season, Fairfield is quickly learning how to win, taking the close games including two contests that went into an extra session.
Kudos to the players, particularly the rookies who are playing with amazing confidence and poise, and of course head coach Sydney Johnson and his new aides de camp Tom Parrotta and Mitch Buonaguro.
Back to Friday night’s triumph over Rider, here’s the running from ace SID Jack Jones:
Fairfield and Rider played evenly through the first half with both team holding first-half leads.
The Stags owned an eight-point lead with five minutes remaining in the first half at 29-21 which was the biggest advantage by either team.
Rider answered with back-to-back three pointers to cut the lead back to two points less than about a minute later. Fairfield responded by scoring on back-to-back possessions to pull back in front by six points at 33-27.
Rider finished the half with a 10-4 run to tie the game at 37-37 following Teddy Okereafor’s three pointer with one second on the clock.
Rider started the second half quickly and grabbed a five point lead at 51-46 with 14 minutes remaining.
Fairfield scored the next five points off a three pointer from Cobb and a layup from Jerry Johnson Jr. to tie the score at 51-51, the seventh tie of the game. The Stags kept the run going with layups by Matija Milin and Tyler Nelson along with a dunk from Kasibabu to extend the lead to 57-51 with 11 minutes left.
The Broncs rallied once again with eight straight points, the last of which came off two three-point shots by Okereafor to take the lead for the final time at 59-57 with just under 10 minutes remaining. The Stags tallied the next six points to erase the deficit and go back up six points after three freshmen scored, namely Cobb, Kasibabu, and Milin.
Rider came as close as one point after a pair of free throws by Teddy Okereafor made it a 71-70 game with 1:48 on the clock. Milin pushed the lead back to three with a foul-line jumper on Fairfield’s next possession. He added a free throw about a minute later that iced the game at 74-70.
Okereafor finished the game with 25 points for Rider.