Fairfield (10-8) at Iona (11-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, January 18, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Hynes Athletic Center (2,611) -- New Rochelle, New York. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Fairfield 2-2, Iona 6-0. Away Record: Fairfield 5-6, Iona 4-3. Neutral Record: Fairfield 3-0, Iona 1-3. Conference Record: Fairfield 2-4, Iona 5-1. Series Record: Iona leads, 57-40.
GAME NOTES: Two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions meet at the Hynes Athletic Center in New Rochelle, New York on Friday night, as the Fairfield Stags tangle with the Iona Gaels in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference action.
Fairfield comes in with a 10-8 overall record, but the team has lost its last three games to fall to 2-4 in conference. The Stags dropped a 67-64 decision at home to Niagara last Sunday, marking the second loss in the last three games to the Purple Eagles following a 71-67 setback in Niagara on Jan. 5. Fairfield has played the majority of its games away from home this season, and enters this fray with a 5-6 record in true road tilts. The team has however, won all three of its games played on a neutral court.
Iona is in the midst of a four-game win streak, all of which have been against MAAC foes, the most recent of which being a 97-87 shootout victory over visiting Canisius last Sunday. The Gaels are now 11-6 overall and 5-1 in conference, the latter mark helping them keep pace with Niagara for the top spot in the league standings, and just ahead of both Loyola-Maryland and Rider, which have identical 5-2 MAAC records at the moment.
Iona owns a 57-40 lead in the all-time series with Fairfield, which includes victories in both regular-season meetings a year ago. The Stags however, exacted some revenge by topping the Gaels in the 2012 MAAC Tournament semifinals.
The teams will meet again in Bridgeport, Connecticut on Feb. 18.
Fairfield is a middling offensive team, as least in terms of its standing in the MAAC, the squad averaging 62.8 ppg in hitting 44.1 percent of its field goal attempts, which includes a 32.6 percent effort from 3-point range. The Stags have just one double-digit scorer on the roster, as Derek Needham averages 13.6 ppg despite lackluster shooting percentages (.393 overall, .317 3-point range), and he serves as one of the team's primary playmakers as well by handing out 3.8 apg. Despite starting three forwards, two of which are freshmen, the team lacks an intimidating presence on the inside as no one grabs more than 4.8 rpg (Amadou Sidibe). Defensively, the Stags manage to hold their own by limiting the opposition to 61.6 ppg, which ranks as the second- best yield in the conference. Justin Jenkins came off the bench to score 16 points, leading two other Stags in double figures, but it was Niagara that prevailed over the home team for the second time in a little more than a week, doing so in a 67-64 final. Needham and another reserve, Maurice Barrow, chipped in 10 points for Fairfield, which shot just 38.8 percent from the floor, missing 13 of its 18 long-range attempts along the way. The Stage easily won the rebounding battle (45-27), but came up with only five turnovers.
Iona is the highest scoring team in the MAAC, putting up 82.5 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of .461 overall, .390 from 3-point range and .783 from the foul line. The ability to light up the scoreboard nearly at will doesn't come without a price however, as the team's defensive effort has been rather lax in allowing foes to score 76.8 ppg while actually shooting slightly better from the field (.462), and nearly as well from beyond the arc (.388). The Gaels are just about dead even in rebounding margin (-0.5), but come out ahead of the game in turnover differential (+2.9). The MAAC's top two scorers wear an Iona uniform, as Lamont Jones (22.0 ppg, 4.3 apg) and Sean Armand (18.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.3 apg) give the Gaels one of the most productive backcourt tandems in the country. Both players have never met a 3-point shot they didn't like, combining to go 99-of-244 (.406) from distance. David Laury (15.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg) has appeared in only eight games, and would give the team three of the league's top seven scorers if he qualified. Armand was a man possessed in the recent win over Canisius, nailing nine treys in tallying 32 points, while Tre Bowman came off the bench to net 24 by going 8-of-13 from the floor and a perfect 6-of-6 at the charity stripe. Laury added 13 points and A.J. English had 10 for the Gaels, who drained 53.8 percent of their total shots, which included 16 3-pointers.
Iona is 6-0 at home this season, and there is little chance the Gaels suffer their first loss there tonight as the Stags simply lack the offensive punch to pull off the upset.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Iona 79, Fairfield 63
01/18 10:33:25 ET