Well, Stag Nation, that one was ugly wasn’t it?
With a chance to showcase themselves a little early and knock off a Big East team (who cares if Rutgers was preseason pick to finish 15th out of 16 teams) for the first time since the 2003-04 season, Fairfield stunk out the Louis Brown Athletic Center, aka the RAC, Monday night, losing to the Scarlet Knights 68-53.
They shot miserably on offense (29 percent), gave up uncontested layups on defense – Rutgers had 30 points in the paint – and for the second straight game, point guard Derek Needham struggled. Badly.
In his first two games, Needham has 11 turnovers and just eight assists. That is not a good ratio, people. He’s taken 31 shots (probably 25 have been ill-advised ones) and made only eight (25.8 percent). Worse, he’s just 3 of 16 from behind the 3-point line (18.7 percent)
He’s trying too hard.
He has to relax and let the game come to him. Trying to force the issue and win the game on one possession only leads to nights like this, when not much of anything goes right and pretty much everything goes wrong.
There were a few good things, though. Warren Edney went 5-of-8 shooting in the first half against Rutgers and had 11 points. The Stags did grab nine offensive rebounds in the first half and were 6-of-7 from the free throw line in the first half.
There were a few bad things too. Edney went 0-for-5 shooting and scored just one point in the second half. The Stags made seven turnovers in the second half (four by Needham) and had ZERO points in the paint over the last 20 minutes.
Over the first two games, Fairfield is shooting 36.6 percent from the floor (37 of 101), is hitting a dismal 20.5 percent from 3-point range (7 of 34) and is hitting just 68.0 percent from the free throw line (34 of 50). Ugly. Ugly. And ugly.
Yorel Hawkins has to become more assertive on the court. A player as athletic as Hawkins is shouldn’t have just 11 points and eight rebounds in two games. That should be the kind of production Hawkins puts out in one half, not two games.
There are times when Greg Nero looks every bit the player that hasn’t played a game in the last 20 months. He’s rusty, nothing more. To the message boarders that say he’s got physical issues again, get real. He’s fine. He’s just kind of clumsy right now. Wait until February. He’ll get better. A lot better.
Someone else who has to become more assertive is Ryan Olander. Yes, he had seven rebounds and two blocks against Rutgers in 30 minutes, but just four points? He needs to crash the offensive glass and get put-backs and dunks.
Colin Nickerson, probably the best shooter on the team, has taken just 11 shots in the first two games (making 6). Get him coming off some screens and get him some open looks, OK?
The three freshmen, Jamel Fields, Maurice Barrow and Keith Matthews are playing like, well … freshmen. Good moments. Bad moments. Cover you eyes moments. They have to forget that they’re freshmen and start playing with some reckless abandon. And soon.
And where’s Lyndon Jordan? Better wake up soon or this season (and your career) will be over before you even know it.
Here’s what Ed Cooley and Derek Needham had to say after the Rutgers game.
(What did Rutgers do to take you out of your offense?)
“You have to give them credit, they did a good job defensively. I don’t think it was so much defensively as we were inept offensively. We were really inept offensively, so some of that may go their defense. I saw a team, again, that just didn’t play well together, you know? We didn’t pass the ball well, you’re not going to win games on eight assists. You don’t win games on eight assists and shooting 29 percent. We had a lot of no-shows today. We had a lot of no-shows. Guys were dressed in costume and thought they were getting a bunch of candy. It’s not Halloween. So, I will make the adjustments and make sure the right guys have the right uniforms the next time we play.”
(Why was the offense so inept?)
“It’s early. Again, I still think we’re trying to integrate three freshmen, we’re trying to integrate Yorel and Warren back in. Honestly, we just didn’t have a good day, we weren’t good and when our best players aren’t playing at that level in these types of games it’s hard to have success.”
(Is this a chemistry problem?)
“I’m not going to say so much chemistry as just jelling because I think we have good chemistry but basketball chemistry is the thing we’ve got to get. Team chemistry is great … we just weren’t good today. I mean, we were … that’s one of the worst performances I’ve my team have since I’ve been here. I’m like, ‘Who are these imposters?’ We weren’t tough defensively, we gave up uncontested layups, I don’t even know that they shot from the floor, we just … that’s not the Fairfield team that’s going to be very good. If those guys show up it’s going to be a long year.”
(What were they doing to Derek?)
“Probably speeding him up. Derek is going to have … when you have the preseason accolades he’s received, and that’s exactly what they are, pre-season, earned on last year’s reputation, that’s no longer there. You’re going to get played differently and people are going to prepare for you differently. Great players make those adjustments, good players stay the same. He’ll become a great player when he adjusts to how people play him.”
(How do you get him out of this early slump?)
“Keep talking to him. I have to keep believing in him, which I do. I think he’s going to have a fantastic year. He’s got to make some adjustments in his game as people have adjusted to him. Our season’s not over because of one game, we just played like a bunch of imposters. I’d love to find the team that I’m used to having in practice. That team here wasn’t the team we’ve had in practice at all.”
(What were they doing to you to get you out of your game?)
“I wasn’t hitting shots. Coach showed me some clips of how I was stepping into my jump shots, hopping and I found myself doing that again today and I got kind of frustrated.”
(You’ve struggled in these first two games)
(How do you get yourself back on track?)
“Pass the ball.”
(Do you look at Friday’s game as you’re not going to shoot and pass the ball more?)
“I have to. I’ve been shooting the ball way too much and taking bad shots. I’ve been playing selfish and forcing the issue. This game is over, I’m going to watch film and I’ll be better next time.”
(When coach took you out at the end, he said something to you…)
“He told me to calm down, that I can’t win the game by myself. I understand that. When I get down sometimes I try to do it on my own and I have to get out of that mentality. I have to grow up quick.”
(It seems like the offense was stuck in quicksand again tonight)
“I did a terrible job of communicating to my team when coach gave me the plays, I wasn’t telling everyone where we were at and we weren’t getting into our offense quick enough, so I have to become 100 percent better or we’re not going to win too many games.”
(Are you going to watch this film tonight on the way home?)
“Yes. And tomorrow at practice, I’ll watch it again. I’m going to watch it until I understand what I’m doing wrong and I can correct it.”