By John Cirillo
Forget the Grammy’s, Monday night’s biggest hits were recorded by Fairfield rookie Jerry Johnson, Jr.
The freshman out of Memphis came off the bench to nail a career high seven 3-point field goals, igniting Fairfield University (15-11, 9-7 MAAC) to a 76-73 come-from- behind win over Marist (5-20, 2-14 MAAC) at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.
The weather was cold, but “Triple J” was red hot, leading all scorers with a career high 25 points, including a troika to give the Stags a 71-68 lead with 1:15 left in the game, and a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to nail down the win.
The performance was presidential.
Fairfield had trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half. But the Stags found a friend in the three-ball t0 stage the rally. Senior forward Marcus Gilbert (17.7 ppg) was another Fairfield catalyst, hitting three 3-pointers in the second half. Gilbert had 20 points, after scoring only two in the first. Sophomore guard Tyler Nelson (15.7 ppg) also hit a trio of 3-pointers.
Fairfield shot 69 percent from beyond the arc in the second half on the strength of 9 for 13 from three point land to outscore Marist 48-40 in the period.
Johnson’s fellow rookie Brian Parker sparkled for Marist in a losing cause with 20 points. Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, the Stags escaped with their third straight win, and 10th home victory – eight at Webster Bank and a pair on their campus court at Alumni Hall.
The Red Foxes led at the half, 33-28. As the second half unfolded, Marist took a double digit lead, 43-30, with a 10-2 run to start the stanza.
Fairfield shot 35 percent in the first half, and the Stags shooting woes continued at the start of the second, missing their first five shots.
Nelson stopped a 10-0 Marist run with two free throws at the 14-minute mark. Then, Johnson, Jr. began his barrage, hitting a pair of three pointers for Fairfield to cut Marist’s lead to 48-38.
It was the Stags 15th victory of the campaign, eight more than they recorded all of last season for the resurgent program under head coach Sydney Johnson.
Marist has lost 14 of its last 15 games.
Khallid Hart, Marist’s leading scorer and second in the MAAC with 21 ppg, missed the game due to a knee injury.
The Stags swept this year’s home and home against Marist after an earlier 78-66 romp in Poughkeepsie on January 22. Fairfield holds a 32-24 advantage in the overall series.
Fairfield has captured six of its last eight, and is 15-8 after an 0-3 start to the season. The Stags have won four of their last five contests at Webster Bank, the latest in the bank thanks to JJJ hitting seven jays from downtown.
Next up for Fairfield: The Stags shuffle off to Buffalo on Thursday to face Canisius at Koessler Athletic Center. Tip off is at 8:00 PM. Fairfield downed Canisius in the first game of this season’s series, 84-77, on January 29 at Webster Bank. Johnson’s rookie counterpart Curtis Cobb had a similar 25-point career high in the win over the Golden Griffins.