Canisius (4-1) at Fairfield (4-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, December 7, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Webster Bank Arena (9,000) -- Bridgeport, Connecticut. Television: None. Home Record: Canisius 3-0, Fairfield 0-0. Away Record: Canisius 1-1, Fairfield 1-4. Neutral Record: Canisius 0-0, Fairfield 3-0. Conference Record: Canisius 0-0, Fairfield 0-0. Series Record: Fairfield leads, 42-31.
GAMES NOTES: In what will serve as both their home and conference opener, the Fairfield Stags play host to the Canisius Golden Griffins in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference bout on Friday night at Webster Bank Arena.
Canisius has gotten off to a pretty solid start with wins in four of its first five games. The Golden Griffins played their first three contests at home and are currently in the midst of a five-game road trip. In their two other away contests, the Griffs split decisions with an 82-75 loss to Stony Brook followed by an 83-65 win over UMBC. Canisius will play another MAAC game on Sunday against Marist.
On the other side, Fairfield had been struggling with losses in three of four games before notching a decisive 74-55 victory on the road versus Austin Peay. The Stags have played their first eight games on the road (4-4), although two of those were played on neutral courts, both ending victory. The Stags will also keep their conference schedule going in their next matchup against Rider.
With a season sweep last year, Fairfield has won nine straight against Canisius and owns an all-time series lead of 42-31.
The Golden Griffins were efficient with their shots from inside the 3-point line and consistently got to the foul line against UMBC. Canisius shot 49.1 percent overall in the game and outscored UMBC 26-8 at the charity stripe. Canisius didn't have as much success from beyond the arc where it hit just 3- of-20 shots. The Golden Griffins also had a sizable advantage on the boards (44-27). Billy Baron led the way with 19 points and seven assists, but hit only 1-of-5 shots from long range.
Despite scoring an impressive 76.8 ppg, Canisius has not been a strong shooting team from beyond the arc. The Golden Griffins have connected on only 30.5 percent of their attempts from 3-point range. That hasn't stopped them from chucking it up though as they do average more than 20 shots per game. Canisius has been in a number of high-scoring affairs due to it giving up 71.0 points and 15.4 assists per game. Baron (17.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 6.0 apg) has played well in what his the third stop of his college career. Baron played at Rhode Island last season after spending time at Virginia the previous year. He is not afraid to shoot from downtown but has hit just 28.0 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Harold Washington (17.2 ppg) and Jordan Heath (10.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg) are also reliable scoring options.
Fairfield had one of its more impressive offensive showings of the season against Austin Peay, netting 51.7 percent of its total shots, including 8- of-19 from beyond the arc. The Stags really separated themselves in the second half by hitting 61.5 percent of their field goal attempts. Fairfield also forced 21 turnovers, which it converted into 28 points. There were five double-digit scorers for the Stags, led by Derek Needham who had 12 points to go with nine assists.
Needham (14.6 ppg, 3.9 apg) is the top scorer on the squad, although just as in the win against Austin Peay, Fairfield relies on sharing the load. Keith Matthews (8.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg) is the second-highest scorer while, seven others are netting at least five points per game. Desmond Wade (7.0 ppg, 5.2 apg) has not shot well (.333), but has done a nice job of setting up teammates for easy scoring opportunities. Balance hasn't necessarily led to efficiency for the Stags, as they are scoring only 63.9 ppg while shooting 42.9 percent from the field. However, the Stags have not let other teams run away with games by regularly holding them to 66.1 ppg on 44.6 percent shooting.
Playing on its home floor will be a nice change of pace for Fairfield. While the Stags have not been overly impressive this season, being as tested as they are on the road should have the them ready to open up conference play with a win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Fairfield 67, Canisius 62
12/07 10:35:51 ET