Curtis Cobb was a house afire Thursday, tying single-game MAAC scoring record as Fairfield demolished Manhattan. (Photo by Fairfield University Athletics)
RIVERDALE, NY -- Curtis Cobb matched a single-game Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference scoring record Thursday, erupting for 46 points as Fairfield defeated Manhattan, 97-79, at Draddy Gymnasium to move back into a share of first place in the conference standings. Below are a handful of takeaways from the events that transpired:
1) The Curtis Cobb Show, from his coach's perspective:
"He's a good offensive player, and he and Tyler (Nelson) kind of make us go," Sydney Johnson said when describing Cobb's milestone night, with a production output equal to the 46 points Iona's A.J. English put up against the Stags last season in New Rochelle. "He got in a groove, and what I liked is that the guys were really unselfish. They kept finding him, and they were happy to do so. That's the type of program we want to have. We want to get up and down, we want to share the ball. They saw he was hot and they just kept going to him."
2) Tyler Nelson, point guard?
While Jerome Segura posted six assists of his own as Fairfield's resident floor general, it was Nelson who accounted for most of the distribution early in the first half. While Cobb was putting on a shooting clinic from long range, Nelson; the MAAC's leading scorer entering Thursday's game, (20.0 points per game) did most of his damage on the passing end, recording five of seven assists in the opening stanza. A legitimate contender for Player of the Year honors in the MAAC if the Stags keep their success going, Nelson ended his night with 16 points, but made his greatest impact by putting the ball in the hands of others.
3) Understated depth in a bright future.
Casual observers look at Fairfield and come away with a surprised reaction given the Stags' records of recent years. But a keen eye and a well-researched MAAC aficionado will recognize that the multiple sources of offense and interchangeable parts on the bench are integral pieces to what could be a successful run through the league gauntlet before descending upon the Times Union Center in March.
"Our recruiting has been really focused on some offensive guys, and we try to coach them up defensively," Johnson intimated when discussing the complete makeup of his roster. "When you get a core group of them, when they play the right way, then we can all look good. If we get a little selfish and the ball sticks, that's not Fairfield basketball. It's nice that we were able to put on a display like we do a lot of times in practice."
4) Fairfield Rising.
At 3-1 through four games of MAAC play, the Stags are tied for the lead in the league with Canisius, whom they welcome to Bridgeport in their next game Tuesday evening. With back-to-back wins against the likes of Iona and Manhattan, not to mention a come-from-behind victory at Rider in the conference opener, Fairfield is well positioned entering the heart of the MAAC season, even though the marathon is far from over.
"We're really pleased," said Johnson. "I like how we're growing up and coming together as a team. We have a lot of young guys out there, and I like the fact that they're maturing. We can't make too much of it, but it's better to be 3-1 than 1-3. It's certainly Fairfield rising."
"I'm satisfied," Cobb echoed. "I knew we were going to be good this year, and we plan on going pretty far."
Steve Masiello was ejected for the first time in his six-year tenure Thursday night, receiving his first technical foul with 3:08 remaining in the first half before a second was issued with 14:57 to play in regulation. The first technical was doled out by Wally Rutecki after a Curtis Cobb layup, marking the first time Masiello had been assessed a technical since February 8, 2015, when Michael Stephens called one on the coach at Rider. The second was a somewhat controversial call, considering it was preceded by a basket from Manhattan's Zavier Turner, and it did not look as though Masiello had done or said anything to warrant it. After a brief conferral with fellow officials Mike Pearson and Kevin Ferguson, Rutecki confirmed a call that appeared to be Pearson's initial judgment, ejecting Masiello and leaving the Jasper bench in the hands of associate head coach Matt Grady.
Following the final buzzer, Ahmed Ismail had to be restrained by his teammates and the Manhattan coaching staff after an apparent scrum emanating from the postgame handshake line. While those on press row were left to piece the happenings together, here is Johnson's account of the alleged incident:
"I was in front and I had some coaches in the middle and some coaches in the back," the Fairfield coach said. "I just had an inkling that there might be something going on, so we tried to get coaches where they needed to be, but I didn't see it. Then I looked around and I saw guys circling, and I saw; sadly, one of their coaches on the ground, I think. It wasn't the best moment for college basketball, for sure."