Despite a two-week holiday hiatus, Marist quickly shook off any rust and rolled to a 76-66 victory over MAAC foe Monmouth on Thursday night in the McCann Center.
Alana Gilmer starred for the Red Foxes, finishing with a game-high 27 points on 59% shooting and proving to be nearly unstoppable from mid-range. Grace Vander Weide added 15 points and eight rebounds and Rebekah Hand was the only other Marist player in double figures, scoring a rather quiet yet imperative 11 points.
“It was a great team win out there tonight,” said Gilmer. “My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball and I was able to execute.”
Gilmer provided the opening spark for the Red Foxes, hitting three consecutive short jumpers and giving Marist an early advantage. Marist coach Brian Giorgis had been looking for a way to find more playing time for his reserves who had not seen substantial minutes in some time. The solution was the “Red Raider” defense that pressured Monmouth into three turnovers in just two minutes. Kendall Krick and Trinasia Kennedy were standouts as Krick hit two jumpers, both assisted by Kennedy who also added a steal.
“I liked the Red Raider group out there tonight,” Giorgis said. “It allowed us to get a lot of people in and they did an excellent job for their first time.”
Once the starters had returned for Marist, both offenses began to flourish. Monmouth hit a trio of late quarter threes (two of them were banked in), but Marist responded with long-range connections by Molly Smith and Rebekah Hand. When Hand added a layup to beat the buzzer, the Red Foxes held a 21-16 lead after ten minutes.
“I knew we were in trouble when they banked in those first two,” Giorgis added. “It was up to the offense to go and outscore them.”
Willow Duffell saw her first action since November 22 against Lipscomb, returning from a leg injury. She made an immediate impact, swishing home a three to give Marist a 26-18 lead. Her replacement in the starting lineup, Molly Smith, hit two first-half threes, the latter allowing the Red Foxes to go into the locker room up 40-30.
Marist did their best to bury Monmouth’s second half-hopes with a quick 9-0 run capped off by a Sarah Barcello three. The main offensive weapon was still Gilmer, who repeatedly made the Hawks pay whenever she got a touch in the paint. Another mid-range jumper gave Marist a 53-33 lead, its largest of the night.
Just when it looked like Marist could run away and cruise to a 20-point victory, Monmouth found some of the shooting that had allowed them to stick around in the first half. The Hawks made its last six shots of the third quarter, including a pair of threes from Jennifer Louro. Marist led 62-48 going into the last 10 minutes.
“I was disappointed in our defense at times, but to their credit, they shot it very well out there,” said Giorgis.
A Lucy Thomas three-point play cut the lead to 62-51 early in the fourth. At a critical juncture in the game, Grace Vander Weide made her mark, hitting two consecutive threes and stretching the Red Fox-lead back up to 17. Coach Giorgis was able to insert his reserves once more, as Marist held steady in the final minutes, ensuring a conference-opening victory.
The Red Foxes put on a tremendous shooting display from inside the arc, going 28-of-56 (50%) from the field but were held to eight-of-23 from long range. They also turned in a below-average night from the foul line, only going 12-of-18 (66%). Marist once again hit the 20-assist mark as a team, helping ease the burden of lackluster performances from the three-point line and the charity stripe.
Monmouth was led in by scoring by Lucy Thomas, who had 14. Jennifer Louro contributed 13 off the bench and was the only other double-digit scorer for the Hawks.
Monmouth shot 25-of-57 (44 percent) from the field and an uncharacteristic 12-25 (48 percent) from three. The Hawks came in shooting only 25 percent from three and were plagued by turnovers, committing 21 in the game.
Marist will be back in action on Saturday night when they take on Saint Peter’s in the McCann Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Edited by Will Bjarnar