There may be only three games going on tonight in college hoops, but there’s an important one in the MAAC, as the Fairfield Stags (10-8) head to New Rochelle to take on the red-hot Iona Gaels (11-6) in a game featuring two teams headed in different directions. For the Stags, they are looking to right the ship and end their three-game slide that’s dropped them to 2-4 in the MAAC, while Iona is trying to extend a four-game win streak and keep pace with 1st-place Niagara (6-1).
The two teams are drastically different–Iona will look to play a more up-and-down game with a lot of possessions and a lot of points, while Fairfield needs it to be a half-court game. As far as conference teams go, Iona is number one in points per game with 82.5 (5th in the nation) and in points per possession (1.13). Fairfield, on the other hand, is fifth in PPP with 0.98 and is the fourth-lowest scoring team in the MAAC averaging just 62.8 points per game.
Fairfield has won 10 games this year thanks to the help of their perimeter defense. They allow opponents to shoot only 31% from deep but they’ll have a tall order against the Gaels, who shoot nearly 40% from three.
Iona has plenty of scoring options for the Stags to account for in Lamont Jones (22 ppg), Sean Armand (18.9 ppg) and newly-eligible David Laury (15 ppg), so Fairfield will have their hands full. Armand is coming off a 32-point night in their most recent win over Canisius. With the addition of Laury, who also averages 8.8 rebounds per game, Iona now also has a legitimate rebounder, which should only help them in the MAAC.
The Stags are a one-man show. Guard Derek Needham is their only player averaging double-digits in points (13.6 ppg) and is also the team’s primary play-maker, dishing out a team-best 3.8 assists a game. Iona’s lack of defense from time to time shouldn’t factor into the outcome tonight–unless Needham goes for 50.
Fairfield is really outmatched in this one, and Iona should win it going away. TI have a hard time imagining Iona’s perfect 6-0 home record being tarnished by the Stags.