BRIDGEPORT, Conn. –
Nelson and Segura. Segura and Nelson.
The two student-athletes have become synonymous with the success of Fairfield basketball over the last four years. One sets up, the other knocks it down. So it seemed only fitting that on the night that Tyler Nelson
scored his 2,000th career point, Jerome Segura
posted his 400th career assist. One can't help wonder how many points Nelson would have if Segura wasn't setting him up. Or, how many assists Segura would have if Nelson wasn't on the receiving end of those pinpoint passes.
But tonight, the duo would be the first to admit that those milestones were secondary to Fairfield men's basketball picking up an important win with its 83-79 decision over Marist College at Webster Bank Arena. The result helped erase the memory of last weekend's losses in upstate New York, and helped reboot a team that hopes a season-ending run will improve its standing in the upcoming MAAC Tournament.
Segura picked up his two assists on back-to-back possessions that built on a lead he had given the team with a three pointer that put the Stags in front at 18-17 after Fairfield had trailed its visitor for six minutes of the first half. With Fairfield still holding onto a one-point lead at 26-25, Segura found Kevin Senghore-Peterson
open in the far corner and the freshman netted the three-point shot to equal the Stags' biggest lead of the game to that point, 29-25. On the next possession, Segura once again found an open teammate, this time it was Jesus Cruz
, who sank a long-range jumper that expanded Fairfield's lead to 32-25 with 4:24 left in the first half.
"I am very proud of this accomplishment," Segura said. "That's the type of player I am – taking care of my teammates first and setting them up for success. There's a lot of work to get assists. There is a lot of preparation, like watching film to see how defenses play so that you can see where the open shots will be."
Nelson's approach to his milestone was just as meaningful in the grand scheme of tonight's game. Late in the game, Marist managed to knock Fairfield's 10-point lead with 4:48 remaining down to four points with 28 seconds left. The Red Foxes fouled Tyler Nelson
in the back court and the senior calmly knocked down his 1,997 and 1,998 points to push the lead back to six points.
Marist kept the pressure on after Lasse Gummerus' layup cut the deficit back to four points with 17 seconds left, making the score 79-75. Once again, Nelson was held in the back court which sent the guard to the line for a chance to make history, and the senior obliged by netting both charity tosses to hit the 2,000-point mark.
"Scoring my 2,000th point at home was real special because I was able to do it in front of my family and friends so it's something I will remember for the rest of my life," Nelson said. "I really didn't know how many points I needed to get to 2,000 so when I heard them announce it over the PA it was kind of a surprise."
While Nelson and Segura were working their way into history, sophomore Ferron Flavors Jr.
worked his magic on both sides of the court. The guard netted 16 points most of which came off his four three-point field goals and also registered a career-high 10 rebounds to complete his first double-double. Flavors Jr. has been one of the team's most effective rebounders of late, serving as the team's top rebounder over the last five games with 6.2 caroms per contest during that stretch.
With this trio's play, Fairfield led for 33 of the 40-minute game, erasing an early six-point first-half deficit to take a 38-32 lead at halftime. The Stags were able to build on that advantage throughout the second half, holding its biggest advantage of 12 points with 6:32 left in the game at 71-59.
But Marist was pesky and scored seven straight points after Fairfield secured that 12-point edge which cut the deficit down to five points, 71-66, with 3:50 remaining. Fairfield was able to push the lead back to nine points on a couple of occasions, the last of which came at 77-68 with a minute remaining.
The Red Foxes once again were able to keep composure and make a run at their hosts, using an 11-5 run to cut the lead to two points at 81-79 with five seconds left. Flavors Jr. stepped to the line after being fouled on the inbound play and calmly sank both free throws to end the Red Foxes' hopes.
Now, the Stags will turn their attention to their final three games, two of which are at home starting with Saturday's match up with Quinnipiac University at Webster Bank Arena. Game time is 1 pm. And while the team's focus will be on winning the game, no one is above being caught up in Nelson's quest to become the all-time leading scorer now that he is just seven points away from breaking Tony George '86 mark of 2,006 points.
Should that shot fall on Saturday, it would only be right that the pass comes from Segura, further cementing the duo together once again as they have done for the last four years.