Marist dropped their second straight game of the season, falling to Princeton 62-50 at home. It was another low 50s output for the Red Foxes, who could not muster enough offense to stick around in the fourth quarter.
Rebekah Hand led the Red Foxes with 18 points on seven-of-13 shooting, keeping the Red Foxes around early. Two other members of Marist’s senior brigade, Grace Vander Weide (11) and Alana Gilmer (10) were the only other Red Foxes in double-digits. Gilmer also added 10 rebounds to secure her first double-double of the season.
Marist rode a hot (Rebekah) Hand to a 16-12 lead near the end of the first quarter. Princeton was able to seize some momentum after an offensive rebound set up an Abby Meyers buzzer-beating three to make it 16-15 Red Foxes.
Grace Vander Weide helped the Red Foxes open a 23-18 advantage early in the second, hitting an open three and adding a layup. Princeton, playing without their leading scorer Bella Alarie (15.2 points per game), started slow but gradually warmed up thanks to contributions from Claire Littlefield and Julia Cunningham. By halftime, the Tigers had a 28-26 lead.
Marist was in the same territory last week against Central Michigan, going into break facing a slim deficit. This time, instead of caving in, the defense held steady and kept Princeton (who has eight NCAA Tournament appearances this decade) close. Second-half scoring did not commence until the 6:48 mark in the third quarter for Marist, with Sarah Barcello hitting a jumper to make it 30-28 Tigers.
The Red Fox defense bailed out a sputtering offense that would not score another field goal until the 2:51 mark in the quarter; Hand cut the deficit to 33-32 with a three-point play that reenergized the packed Fox Den. She would score her last points of the game on the next possession, giving Marist a 34-33 lead, the only time they were in control in the second half. From there, Maggie Connolly hit a three in the waning seconds of the shot-clock and Trinasia Kennedy threw an ill-timed three-quarter court heave with five seconds remaining on the clock. It was an encapsulation of an ugly quarter that saw Princeton finish where they began: with a two-point lead.
“We ran into a defensive juggernaut tonight,” Said Marist head coach Brian Giorgis. “We just missed shots and had some bad turnovers.”
Princeton finally broke through once the fourth quarter began. Carlie Littlefield scored the first five points for the Tigers, who finished off a 9-0 run with a Connolly steal and layup. The Red Foxes were now in a 46-35 hole, and their offensive became more stagnated as the game wore on. The defense gave a valiant effort, but could only hold for so long, as Princeton got many second chance looks and was either rewarded with a layup or foul shots. Vander Weide and Gilmer did their best to keep the Red Foxes around, but an Ellie Mitchell jumper made it 57-43 with just over two minutes left and effectively sealed the win for the Tigers.
“They are one of, if not the best mid-major teams out there,” Giorgis said. “We’re playing better competition now and we’re learning some things. The wins would be nice but now we can go back into practice and improve.”
Marist shot a respectable 19-of-45 (42 percent) from the field but once again struggled from beyond the arc, going three-for-17 (18 percent). The Red Foxes also uncharacteristically struggled from the free-throw line, shooting an abysmal nine-for-17 (53 percent). Turnovers were also an issue as Marist gave the ball away 17 times and only assisted on 11 shots.
Princeton was led by first-team all-Ivy Leaguer Carlie Littlefield with 19 points. Julia Cunningham added 14 and Ellie Mitchell pitched in with eight points and 13 rebounds.
Marist will be back in action next Sunday against Green Bay, another highly regarded mid-major foe coming to the McCann Center. Tip-off is scheduled for noon. For now, Giorgis just wants his players to focus on finals week.
“Right now they can do really well on their exams, then we’ll get into the gym and start preparing.”
Edited by Will Bjarnar