Fairfield vs Army Preview

Fairfield vs Army Preview
(Photo: Trevor Mahlmann)

Fairfield (2-5) and Army (3-5) meet on a Saturday afternoon clash between two mid-major programs looking to put a mark on their non-conference slate.

The Knights come in after beating Binghamton University in their last game 67-56. It was their best effort on the defensive end of the floor on the young season. Before that matchup, Army allowed 78 points per game in their previous seven matchups.

Junior forward Matt Wilson posted his first double-double on the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds. At 6’9 245-pounds, there are not many guys who have a size advantage when battling down low with the West Point big man. He has now shot over 50 percent from the floor in 13 consecutive games.

Tommy Funk is the other Cadet the Stags will need to prepare for. The junior guard can fill up the stat sheet–against Binghamton he pitched in 13 points to go with a game-high eight assists and six rebounds. On the season he is averaging 11.5 points, 3 rebounds and 7 assists per game. Before this season he had started 62 consecutive games and has stretched that to 70+ games started during his West Point career.

Army has already beaten one MAAC foe this season–taking down Marist 73-69 in the season opener.

Fairfield comes into this contest with a sub par record, but they could easily be 6-1. They have lost four games by a grand total of 13 points–three of those losses were one possession games.

Besides their season-opening blowout to then No.24 Purdue, the Stags have been in every game.

They are a two-man wrecking crew with an inexperienced junior and an inexperienced freshman.

Landon Taliaferro is a junior college transfer getting his first taste of D-I action–he has performed above most ‘experts’ expectations leading the team in points (16.7). He is shooting 59 percent from three-point land while taking seven shots a game.  Taliaferro averaged seven points per game but saw that scoring average grow to 22 points per contest by the end of his second and final year with the program. His scoring average rose primarily from his ability to shoot long-range, leading NJCAA in three-pointers made with 130 during the 2017-18 season, including a game in which he netted 10 three pointers. He shot 49 percent from the floor and 48 percent from behind the arc.

Freshman Neftali Alvarez has been doing it all for the Stags, averaging 14.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists. He joins the Fairfield University men’s basketball program after last season at Miami Christian where he helped the school capture two state titles. In his junior season, Alvarez netted the game-winning three pointer in the first of those titles. He averaged a double-double last season with 27 points and 11 assists per game which caused the Miami Herald to select him as the 5A-1A Player of the Year. He was one of nine finalists for Florida’s Mr. Basketball award, an honor bestowed to the top player in the state. He also garnered All-State honors both as a junior and as a senior.

Taliaferro and Alvarez are the only two players averaging in double-figures on the season.

Prediction

If Fairfield is hitting their shots from long-range, specifically if Taliaferro is on his game he can shoot the Stags to a victory. But if he is missing his shots, there are not many members on the Stags roster that can help carry the load.

Army is more experienced and at home, so they will likely be favored in this contest, but I have a feeling this will be another typical Fairfield game—close and down to the wire. How they close it out will be telling.

Fairfield 74 Army 73

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