The 2009-’10 season got off to a rocky start for the men’s basketball team Friday, despite a tremendous second-half comeback, as the Bulldogs fell 92–86 against intrastate rival Sacred Heart (1–0) at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport.

One of the few bright spots in the loss was the performance of captain Alex Zampier ’10, who dominated the Stags. The senior guard scored 35 points, including five three-pointers.

The Stags started off hot, building a 35–14 lead with seven minutes to go in the second half, a deficit the Elis were able to cut to 13 at the half thanks to 14 points from Zampier in the seven-minute span.

Yale came out of halftime with renewed vigor, answering two quick field goals from the Stags’ Sahan Mehmet and Liam Potter with three of their own, courtesy of two Zampier buckets and a layup from center Paul Nelson ’10.

In the next 10 minutes, the Bulldogs mounted a comeback, cutting an 18-point deficit to just three with eight minutes remaining in regulation. Jordan Gibson ’10 scored six of his 14 points and grabbed six of his team-high nine rebounds in that period to spark the Bulldogs, while Michael Grace ’13 scored his first career points, sinking two free throws.

But the Elis couldn’t keep up the pace, despite points from Zampier, and forwards Rhett Anderson ’12 and forward Mike Sands ’11, who was making his first career start. Fairfield was able to get the lead back to 10, eventually winning by the final score of 92–86.

“I don’t think we performed poorly, but we really need to improve on the defensive end,” Zampier said. “It was good to get the first game out of the way for the young guys. They will gain experience as the year goes on, so with every game they will get more comfortable out there playing.”

The Yale defense was lacking, yielding a 55.6 percent field goal percentage to the Stags.

“We have to get back on defense and not give up easy baskets,” guard Porter Braswell ’11 said. “Our defense has to get better and we have to be more focused on getting stops. It’s only our first game so we are upset, but there’s a whole season ahead of us. We will be better than we were on Friday, and we will have better results in the near future.”

That future is coming quickly, as the Bulldogs will be back in action Monday night in Storrs, Conn., at UConn’s Gampel Pavilion when they take on Hofstra (0–1) in the opener of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Preseason NIT Tournament. That game will be followed up with a matchup against either Colgate or national powerhouse UConn on Tuesday, pending the Monday’s outcomes.

“It was the first time getting their shoes wet for a lot of our guys,” head coach James Jones said in a press conference after the game. “We took some ill-advised shots, didn’t get back on defense and didn’t get defensive rebounds early on, and it’s hard to be successful that way. Tonight was a learning experience, hopefully it will help us get better.”

The Elis will look to start that improvement when they take the court against Hofstra’s Pride Monday at 6:30 p.m. in Storrs.