Fairfield guard Derek Needham to miss MAAC tourney with broken foot
Fairfield played without starting point guard Derek Needham, who injured his foot in its loss to Iona. Turns out, Needham broke a bone in his left foot and will miss the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament.
“We’re going to miss Derek because he’s a guy that helps us do what we want to do in terms of our gameplan,” said Stags coach Sydney Johnson. “Obviously, the timing isn’t what he would like. But he’s trying to stay positive and he will. He’s trying to be there for his teammates.
Johnson said Needham is in a walking boot and will eventually end up in a cast but is not looking at any type of surgery right now.
Needham, a junior, who was named to the league’s Second Team Monday, was averaging 11.8 points per game.
Johnson is hopeful that the past two games — losses to Iona and Rider — in which the team played without Needham (he was only on the floor for eight minutes against the Gaels) will help when it faces the Broncs Saturday.
He said Desmond Wade, who started Sunday at point guard, will likely fill that spot once again.
“We’ve played two really good games on the road against two really good teams and we’ve played well,” Johnson said. “We’ve had some guys step up and that’s really encouraging for me. The short answers is we’ve had two games of experience without him and we’ve played pretty well. Hopefully, we can bottle that up and have a few more points than the opponent next time out.”
Rider coach Tommy Dempsey said he won’t alter his team’s approach very much.
He feels like Fairfield still has plenty of depth to be a dangerous team this weekend.
“When you’re deep, you have a chance to absorb a loss here or there,” Dempsey said. “I’m not downplaying its significance because he’s one of my favorite players in the league. Will it hurt? It will hurt them but they also have quality depth.”
Dempsey was quick to point out Rakim Sanders. The senior transfer from Boston College averages 16.7 points per game and picked up First Team honors Monday.
Sanders had 17 points in Sunday’s matchup and had two chances to tie the game in the final seconds but was unlucky to see both his 3-pointers rim out.
“He’s a different level player,” Dempsey said. “It makes it harder to double him when Needham’s on the floor but you still have to put a crowd around Sanders. He’s as good as anybody in the league. Iona has some special guys but Sanders is in that same breath.
“I don’t know that any one guy can carry a team for three days because the league is just too deep. One guy might carry you on a given night, but I don’t know about three days. I don’t think he has too.
He’s not the lone ranger out there, they have a talented roster.”
Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup — the first of the day — is slated for a 2:30 start.