MAAC Basketball Tournament 2011: Quarterfinals

BRIDGEPORT, Conn.—The quarterfinals were held today at the Arena at Harbor Yard. In addition to the games listed below, St. Peter’s beat Loyola, 70-60, in the first game of the day, and No. 3 Rider beat Canisius 79-64, in the final game of the night.

No. 1 Fairfield 55, No. 9 Marist 31

With 7:28 left in the first half, Fairfield head coach Ed Cooley raised his palms to the ceiling and looked up, shaking his head. Warren Edney had just slipped and fell on an uncontested fast break and lost the ball out of bounds. The Stags only had 14 points. That was twice as many as Marist had, though.

And so it went for Cooley’s squad in its quarterfinal matchup, as Fairfield defeated the Red Foxes 55-31.

“As bad as we were offensively, we were that much more dominant on defense,” Cooley said. Marist’s 31 points were the lowest in MAAC Tournament history. The Red Foxes, who beat Niagara yesterday, converted just 12-of-41 shots (29 percent) and turned it over a whopping 26 times. Fairfield shot under 40 percent and committed 17 turnovers.

But the Stags have First-Team All-MAAC point guard Derek Needham, who led all scorers with 22 points. In fact, Needham outscored Marist in the first half, 15-14 (Fairfield led 27-14). Not until the 15:34 mark in the second half did Marist overtake him.

To the Marist defenders, Derek Needham was a blur.

It was an ugly win, but as the cliché goes: a win is a win, especially in an elimination tournament. Cooley was thrilled to advance, where No. 4 seed St. Peter’s awaits. “Can you guys feel my energy?” he asked members of the media after the game. “I can’t wait to play tomorrow.”

No. 2 Iona 94, No. 7 Siena 64

It is official: For the first time since 2007, the Siena Saints won’t be the MAAC Tournament champions. The No. 2 seed Iona Gaels crushed Siena 94-64 to advance to the semifinals. The Saints had won the previous three tournaments, all played on their home court in Albany. The last time they didn’t win was the last time the tourney was held here at the Arena at Harbor Yard.

As for Iona, it was its first postseason victory since 2006, when it won the whole thing. That meant no player on the Iona roster had won a single tournament game. That changed tonight thanks to Mike Glover’s 31 points and the team’s 9-of-17 shooting from beyond the arc.

“I thought we were a little slow to loose balls. It may have been last night’s game,” Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro said, referencing Siena’s first round overtime victory over Manhattan that ended just a few minutes before midnight. “We just didn’t have our legs like we should. To play a team like this you’ve got to be on full tilt the way they play.”

The way Iona plays is fast. They push the ball up the court, even after the opponent scores, and like a game with a high number of possessions. Did Siena get caught up trying to play at that tempo? “Yeah, probably,” Buonaguro said. “We took some shots that probably were quick. We probably should have had a little more patience.”

The loss means the end of the college careers for Ryan Rossiter, who was named the conference’s player of the year earlier this week, and Clarence Jackson. Both reached the NCAA Tournament three times. “We were very fortunate. A lot of guys don’t even get to play in one [NCAA Tournament],” Jackson said.

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