Fairfield Edges Central Connecticut In OT, 64-63

Fairfield Edges Central Connecticut In OT, 64-63

               WEST HARFORD, Conn. – Keith Matthews scored 15 points including the game-winning free throws with two seconds remaining in overtime as the Fairfield University men's basketball team opened the 2012-13 season with a thrilling 64-63 win over Central Connecticut State University. The game was part of the Connecticut 6 Classic at the University of Hartford.

                The Blue Devils jumped out to an early 7-2 lead behind five points from sophomore Kyle Vinalis. .The Stags responded with 11 unanswered points to secure their first lead of the game at 13-7.  Derek Needham scored five points of that run, including the three-point shot that put the Stags in the lead.

                Central ended the run with a three pointer from Adonis Burbage that cut the lead in half at 13-10. Needham answered with his second three pointer that pushed the advantage back to six points at 16-10. The Blue Devils used a 10-0 streak that erased the Fairfield advantage and push CCSU in front by a 20-16 margin.

                The Stags regained the lead by scoring 14 of the next 16 points that gave them their biggest lead at 30-22.  Josip Mikulic and Colin Nickerson each had five points via a two-point and a three-point basket during that run. Central Connecticut would pull within a point at 30-29 but back-to-back baskets by Mikulic and Matthews enabled the Stags to build the lead to five points before settling for the three-point edge at halftime, 34-31.

                Fairfield improved its halftime edge with the first three points of the second half which began with a two pointer from Needham. Central rallied for four straight to trim the deficit to two points at 37-35 with 15:55 left on the clock. Baskets by Matthews and Barrow moved the lead to six points at 41-35 but Central Connecticut answered with three points to push the lead back to three points at 41-38 with 11:11 remaining in the second half.

                The lead remained at three points with 7:39 mark as the two teams traded baskets to make it a 43-40 game. Trailing by a 45-40 score, Central Connecticut scored the next nine points to take a four point lead at 49-45 with 5:07 to play. Matt Hunter netted five points and Efese added four points to account for the run.

                Fairfield would whittle the lead to one point after Nickerson's three pointer brought the score to 51-50 with 2:53 remaining. After two Central Connecticut free throws, Nickerson netted a pair of charity tosses to keep it a one-point game at 53-52. Hunter hit a top-of-the-key jumper to make it 55-52 before Needham was fouled to set up a one-and-one situation.

                He made the first free throw but the second hit the back rim and came back in play. Matthews collected the rebound and put it back to tie the game at 55-55 with 1:21 remaining. Both teams had a possession in the final 80 seconds but neither managed to put the ball in the basket, sending the game into overtime at 55-55.

                Central Connecticut opened the overtime with a three-point play by Hunter, but Needham quickly answered to pull the Stags within a point at 58-57. A length-of-the-court pass found Burbage open on the wing for a three-point shot that pushed the score to 61-57. Fairfield answered with back-to-back three pointers from Needham and Mikulic to send the Stags in front at 63-61.

                Hunter would tie the game at 63-63 with two more free throws, making him a combined five for five in the second half and overtime. Both teams had possessions that did not result in points. The Blue Devils last possession was a shot-clock buzzer beater by Vinales that fell short of the hoop. A fast break opportunity ended in the hands of Matthews. The forward was fouled going to the basket which sent him to the line for two free throws.

                He made the first but missed the second to put the Stags in front at 64-63. The missed free throw landed in the hands of Marcus Gilbert who ran out the final two seconds to secure the win for the Stags.