UCANSVILLE, CT (November 13, 2010) – Sacred Heart was held to 31.5% shooting on their way to a 62-45 loss to Fairfield University Saturday afternoon in the first game of the 2010 Connecticut 6 Classic at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Pioneers trailed 31-16 at the half but cut the lead down to eight midway through the second half before the Stags would pull away for the season opening win. Senior point guard Jerrell Thompson (Plainfield, NJ) led the Pioneers with 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals in the loss.
The Pioneers (0-1) jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead in the game's first 1:30 but struggled mightily for much of the first half. Thompson converted off the game's opening tip, laying-in a feed from fellow senior Mehmet Sahan (Istanbul, Turkey) while drawing a foul for a three-point play. Freshman Chris Evans (Stamford, CT) made his first collegiate bucket a three at 18:29 for the early advantage.
From there the Stags (1-0) took over, outscoring the Pioneers 31-10 into the break. Fairfield went to some full court pressure and used early Sacred Heart turnovers to build a 15-8 lead into the second media time out of the first half. Out of the break, a Jamel Field lay-up off a steal and a Warren Edney jumper off a miss pushed the Stag lead to 19-8 forcing SHU head coach Dave Bike to use a timeout at the 11:05 mark.
A Stan Dulaire (Bloomfield, CT) put back was the only SHU basket in the middle of a 19-2 Fairfield run that gave the Stags their biggest lead of the half at 29-10 with five minutes to play. Sacred Heart freshman Evan Kelley (Norwalk, CT) ended the run by burying a three, his first collegiate points. SHU stepped it up on the defensive end turning over Fairfield three times and holding them to just three free throws before halftime to trail 31-16.
The Pioneers made just six-of-25 (.240) over the first 20 minutes and were out rebounded 24-12 by the Stags.
"The things we have been working on (defensively), today they had us scrambling a bit," commented head coach Dave Bike. "We didn't communicate as well as we should have in the first half. We weren't a factor on defense as much as we need to be to be a better team. To get the job done, we have to be effective on defense."
SHU began to chip away in the second half, opening with a 15-7 spurt to pull within eight points. Down 38-22 with 16:23 on the clock, SHU ran off an 8-0 spurt over the next three minutes as sophomore Femi Akinpetide (Sydney, Australia) got it started with a lay-in underneath. R-sophomore Shane Gibson (Killingly, CT) buried a three and Evans capped it off with a lay-in and one to trail 38-30 with 13:34 left.
The Pioneers could get no closer than trailing by eight, 42-36, as Fairfield used a near four-minute stretch by Sacred Heart without a field goal to push the lead 51-36 with 4:18 left. SHU's Thompson ended the drought hitting a three at 3:27 to cut it to 51-39 but the Stags would close out the game by using an 8-3 run to pull away for the win.
"Defensively, we can't play in spurts like that, they got off to too good of a start, " stated Thompson. "Defense is something we have to control all game. Offensively, we have guys who can score the ball but some nights it just might not be there. We still have to be able to rely on our defense to suppress those days and grind out games. "
Both teams turned the ball over 16 times on the afternoon but it was the Stags who took full advantage scoring 17 points off miscues to Sacred Heart's four. Fairfield also held a distinct advantage in the paint, outscoring the Pioneers 36-16.
Sacred Heart will bounce right back into action on Monday night when they travel to Fordham University for a 7:00 pm tip-off. The Pioneers will play three road games next week facing the Rams, heading to UMass and ending the four-game season opening road swing at Brown next Saturday.