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Fairfield men rout Manhattan

February 1, 2017 GMT

BRIDGEPORT — Sometimes you just need a fresh start.

After a 42-point embarrassment at the hands of Monmouth a little more than a week ago, Fairfield’s fifth straight loss, Stags coach Sydney Johnson gave his team a couple of days off to clear their heads. No practice. No lifting. Nothing. Just forget about the game and come back fresh and ready to go.

So far, so good.

The Stags posted their second straight victory, coming out of the gates with solid intensity and rolling past Manhattan 78-49 Tuesday night at the Webster Bank Arena. It was Fairfield’s largest margin of victory in a MAAC game since beating Marist 71-37 during the 2012-13 season.

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“We needed to hit the reset button,” Johnson said. “and we needed to get back to defending and I thought the last three halves that we’ve played (the second half against Marist on Saturday and both halves against Manhattan0, the commitment that we showed with our team defense has been much better.”

After allowing Marist 40 points in the first half, Fairfield’s defense held them to just 22 points and 31 percent shooting in the second in a 72-62 victory. And against Manhattan, the Stags’ defense was even better, holding the Jaspers to 19.2 percent shooting in the second half, 25 percent for the game and surrendering the fewest points allowed this season.

“We kind of took a couple of days off,” said junior guard Tyler Nelson, who scored 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting from behind the 3-point arc. “It was good to get some rest and get back to basics on defense. We really want to pick it up defensively. Some nights you’re not going to make the shots you’re normally going to make, but defensively, that’s there every night so we want to focus on that.”

Curtis Cobb, who set a Fairfield single-game scoring record with 46 points in a 97-79 win over the Jaspers on Jan. 5, led Fairfield with 22 points, 18 coming in the first half as the Stags raced to a 43-21 lead at the break and never looked back.

“It’s feels great,” Cobb said. “I had a little bit of a tough stretch, but it happens. It feels good to have Tyler on my side doing the same things I’m doing.”

Jonathan Kasibabu added 13 point and grabbed six rebounds while battling foul trouble. Little-used Deniz Celen, a 6-foot-8 freshman, added a big spark, scoring seven points, grabbing three rebounds and blocking a shot in seven very productive minutes in the first half while big men Amadou Sidibe and Kasibabu were both on the bench in foul trouble. Celen finished just shy of a double-double with nine points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 17 minutes — all career highs.

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“I’m just really happy for him,” Johnson said. “He’s been kind of looking up at Amadou (nd Jonathan and Matija (Milin) … they just have a lot more experience. But he’s really talented and he’s a great kid. He’s kind of waited his turn and it was nice to see. I thought he was terrific, especially defensively.”

With both Cobb and Nelson feeling it from behind the 3-point arc in the first half (Nelson was 4 for 4 and Cobb was 2-for-2) it only took Fairfield 10 minutes to open a double-digit lead and another seven minutes to push that margin to 20 (39-18) as Nelson banged home his fourth 3-pointer of the half.

“It’s awesome,” Nelson said. “It feels that every time both of us have a good solid game, we always win so we want more of those going forward.”

Fairfield led 43-21 at halftime and Manhattan never got closer than 25 the rest of the way.

The win brought the Stags back to the .500 mark (10-10) for the season and put them within a game of the .500 mark (5-6) in the MAAC. It is also the second win on this four-game homestand at the WBA, with Niagara coming in on Thursday and Quinnipiac on Monday.

“There’s no rest for the weary,” Johnson said. “I think just good to have a better sense of who we are, especially right now. We had that five-game skid and we were doubting ourselves and we just got back in the gym and worked and we’re going to keep doing that.”

celsberry@ctpost.com

MANHATTAN (8-16) — Crawford 3-6 3-5 9, Waterman 1-9 1-3 4, Ismail 1-3 2-4 4, Council 2-9 4-6 10, Capuano 0-4 0-0 0, Peart 1-2 1-2 3, Ojo 0-0 0-0 0, Walker 1-3 0-0 2, Wilson 0-2 1-2 1, Turner 1-8 8-8 11, Usilo 2-2 1-1 5. Totals 12-48 21-31 49.

FAIRFIELD (10-10) — Sidibe 0-1 2-2 2, Segura 0-0 0-1 0, Nelson 7-13 0-0 20, Cobb 10-20 0-1 22, Johnson 3-11 2-2 10, Kasibabu 5-8 2-2 13, Celen 4-6 0-4 9, Leone 0-0 2-2 2, Nolan 0-3 0-0 0, Harper 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-63 8-14 78.

Halftime — Fairfield 43-21. 3-Point Goals — Manhattan 4-19 (Council 2-6, Waterman 1-5, Turner 1-5, Walker 0-1, Ismail 0-1, Capuano 0-1), Fairfield 12-26 (Nelson 6-8, Cobb 2-4, Johnson 2-9, Celen 1-1, Kasibabu 1-1, Harper 0-1, Nolan 0-2). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Manhattan 33 (Crawford, Council 6), Fairfield 35 (Celen 9). Assists — Manhattan 4 (Turner 2), Fairfield 19 (Johnson 5). Total Fouls — Manhattan 18, Fairfield 25. Att: 859 (9,000).