The thermometer read as low as -2. It was far and away the coldest night of the year. Symbolically, these frigid elements would align more appropriately with the lack of on-court heat displayed in Marist’s January 18 loss to the Iona Gaels. Last night, though, during a 78-74 redemption win, the Red Foxes stayed cool.
It seemed like the night was frozen themed. “Darius had ice water in his veins,” Head Coach John Dunne said about freshman Darius Hines who finished with 14 points and helped Marist clinch the victory by scoring three late free throws. The Foxes avoided a late push from the Iona Gaels to seal the deal, just skating by with a four-point win. Marist moves to 8-13 and up to ninth on the MAAC conference leaderboard.
The game was relatively even for a good portion of the first half. It was obvious that the fans who made it out were in for a good game from the start, as the score after 10 minutes read 26-23, Foxes. From there, Marist caught fire and didn’t look back. Senior forward Isaiah Lamb scored on three straight possessions following a technical foul on Iona; those seven consecutive points contributing instrumentally to the Marist run that helped the Red Foxes close the half with a 13-point lead, 47-34.
“Obviously I wouldn’t have gotten it without my teammates. Any one of our seniors or any one of our players on the court can go off like that,” Lamb said postgame. It seems as though every night, a different Fox is putting up points.
The offense was the difference. In the first half alone, Marist hit nine three-pointers on their way to the biggest lead of the game (16). Lamb would finish with a team-leading 15 points, only needing the first half to accomplish such. Whilst his second-half was a goose egg, Lamb’s teammates were able to pick up the slack. Aleksandar Dozic (14), Darius Hines (14), Brian Parker (11), and Ryan Funk (11) all finished in double-figures, and Marist’s 32 bench points really helped to push their offense over the edge. “I just felt comfortable in the middle, and that area was open, I was just able to work those floaters and little shots,” Dozic mentioned after the game. The Gaels had no answer for him, and as Marist’s shooters drew out Gaels defenders, Dozic found openings where he could capitalize with ease. Dozic’s points weren’t the lone contributor. He was the night’s stat stuffer, finishing with nine rebounds (three of them offensive), three assists, and three blocks.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing — er, skating — for the Red Foxes, as the second half quickly turned into a lackadaisical, Gael-dominated affair. The offensive-minded approach that the Foxes took in the first half seemed to have evolved into a sense of defensive resistance. All they had to do was outlast an offensive attack from Iona, but within the first five minutes of the second half, Iona had cut the lead to five, making it 52-47, Marist.
While the defensive effort wasn’t pretty, one player that helped keep the lead in the hands of the Red Foxes was freshman guard Matt Herasme. “I thought Herasme gave us some good energy off the bench,” Dunne said of his first-year guard. It was evident that his hustle outmatched the Gaels, and his extra effort was able to keep the momentum going enough to, again, skate by in the end. Herasme was able to tip and defend passes, grab key offensive boards, and on one specific possession, he kept the ball alive by making a smart play and bouncing the ball off an Iona player. The ball traveled out of bounds, and into the hands of Marist and their offense. Herasme finished the game with four points and two steals, a subtle but crucial individual box score in the end.
Through Herasme’s hustle and Marist’s resilience, the Gaels continued to get back into the picture. With three minutes left in the game, Marist led by six, giving last night’s game a familiar feeling to that January loss. The Gaels started to sink more shots, inching closer to yet another dub at the hands of their MAAC foe. In the past two games, the Foxes struggled mightily in their second halves, blowing a late lead to Rider in the former, and failing to keep pace with Quinnipiac in the latter. This has been their bugaboo for quite some time, but they were able to prevail and prevent a late-game comeback this time, walking away 78-74 victors, withstanding the late game Gael-comeback.
“We didn’t hang our head when they made a run. In other games we’ve done that,” Dunne added after the game. A couple late turnovers from Brian Parker allowed the Gaels to stay in the game. It was the game-sealing free throws from Ryan Funk and Darius Hines that put the game away.
Next, the Foxes will take on the 6-16 Fairfield Stags in the hometown McCann Center. Dunne, as he has been all season, is adamant about focus and the future.
“We have another game Saturday. We’ve [got to] make sure we don’t lay an egg there.”
Edited by Will Bjarnar