Notes from Fairfield game
Flash back three and a half years ago when life was easier for A.J. Price and Fairfield guard Mike Van Schaick during their high school days.
The two played against one another before in the New York State Class B high school state championship game in Glens Falls, Van Schaick’s hometown. It was there in upstate New York that Price’s Amityville established itself as one of New York’s top public school programs, playing in the state final four for five straight years.
But in the 2003 final, the Long Island school was at a disadvantage against a partisan Glens Falls’ crowd. Amityville eventually won the game by 25 points when Price was a junior during Van Schaick’s senior season.
In the years that followed, both have taken different paths. This is Price’s first collegiate season after sitting out two years because of health and legal issues. As for Van Schaick, he has been a role player at Fairfield until this season, his senior collegiate campaign. He now starts for the Stags and remains the lone senior starter on the team.
On Saturday, save for a postseason match-up, they were linked for a third and final time: first in a state high school title game, then on an all-state list, and finally, in a game between their respective college teams, which was won by Price and UConn.
By 25 points.
Mississippi head coach Andy Kennedy realizes tonight’s game against UConn will be his team’s toughest assignment so far this season, even as the Rebels enter the game with a 4-0 record.
With wins over Mississippi Valley State and Louisiana-Lafayette before two victories this weekend at the Hispanic College Fund Classic, Kennedy said the Huskies are one of the main reasons why the Rebels agreed to play in this tournament.
Saturday was not easy, though, for Ole Miss. Central Arkansas trailed by just two points at halftime and closed the gap to four points with five minutes remaining before a convincing late Rebels’ run closed the game.
Now, Kennedy and Ole Miss prepare for UConn.
“We came up here to earn some respect,” Kennedy said after the win. “I assure you that won’t be easy, but we’ll have no problem with motivation.”
For the next two semesters, Michael Evanovich will dress in a Fairfield warm-up top and dress pants while the Stags finish this season.
Then, he will be able to resume his college career after a misguided year at Iowa State.
But what made his transfer noteworthy Saturday night was the fact that his older brother was across the floor on the UConn bench. For the past three seasons, Justin Evanovich has assumed the role of graduate student manager after spending two years as a walk-on for the Huskies. Now, his brother will wait one year at Fairfield because of NCAA transfer rules.
The younger Evanovich spent one season at South Kent Prep before moving on to Iowa State. He also attended E.O. Smith-Storrs across from the UConn campus before enrolling for one prep year. When Evanovich regains his eligibility he will fit in with a young Stags team which starts three freshmen and a sophomore.
SOME PRAISE FOR THE STAGS
UConn head coach Jim Calhoun shared some encouraging words for Fairfield, which fell to 0-5 on the season Saturday.
He took note of freshman Greg Nero, the versatile 6-foot-9 forward who scored all 12 of his points in the first half before finding foul trouble. Calhoun also said the play of Anthony Johnson and Jonathan Han should lead a young Stags team to a quality season in the MAAC.
But the one thing that Fairfield coach Ed Cooley has no control of is the Stags’ schedule, set up before the first-year coach arrived.
That fact, Calhoun said, is hard to overlook.
“They played St. Joe’s at St. Joe’s. I wouldn’t play St. Joe’s at St. Joe’s, especially with the team I have now,” Calhoun said. “It’s not an easy place to play.”
The Stags have also lost three of their five games by five points or less, two of which were in overtime.
CHANGE IN GAME
As much as Calhoun was quick to praise Fairfield, Cooley said Huskies center Hasheem Thabeet has only developed over the past few weeks.
Not only did he praise him as a player, Cooley touted him as a prospect, something the six NBA scouts in attendance did not fail to notice during the freshman’s most complete effort this season.
Another aspect of the game Cooley said he noticed was the first-half flow that he felt was dictated by the officials.
First-half fouls – Fairfield (11); UConn (six).
Second-half fouls – Fairfield (nine); UConn (nine).
Fairfield’s field-goal percentage in the second half: 19.2 percent.
The Stags finish the Hispanic College Fund Classic today at 5:30 p.m. against Central Arkansas. Both teams are searching for their first win of the weekend.