It was a game Marist badly wished it could have back. The Red Foxes, who had eclipsed the 70-point mark in each of their first eight MAAC games, were held to a season-low in a 52-48 loss against Fairfield.
Marist was up as many as fifteen points in the first half but watched their lead slowly and surely slip away to a Fairfield team who controlled the tempo with a suffocating mix of man and zone defense. A late rally brought the away squad tantalizingly close, but the Red Foxes saw the end to their modest three-game winning streak. It was the first time since the November 26, 2018 game against Purdue that Marist failed to break the 50-point total.
“They completely outplayed us after the first quarter,” said Marist head coach Brian Giorgis. “It was the number one offense versus the number one defense and round one went to the defense.”
Marist (14-4, 7-2 in the MAAC) was led by Rebekah Hand, who had a game-high 18 points on eight-of-14 shooting. Grace Vander Weide was the only other player in double-figures, with 10. Alana Gilmer struggled mightily, putting up nine points on four-of-14 shooting and making just one of her four free throws.
“A couple of our best players just didn’t have it today,” said Giorgis. “Outside of Rebekah (Hand), everyone struggled, [and] we didn’t get much from our bench.”
Fairfield (10-8, 7-2 in the MAAC), who is in the middle of a four-game, eight-day stretch, got 15 points from both Lou Lopez-Senechal and Sam Kramer. The Stags were eager to get the memory of last year’s 85-44 thumping in Poughkeepsie off their minds. Sure enough…
In the early going it looked like we could have been heading that way again. After trailing 6-4, the Red Foxes went on a 17-2 run, keyed by Hand and Gilmer, who hit a buzzer-beating jumper to end the first quarter and give Marist a 21-8 lead.
The Red Foxes extended the lead to 25-10 on a Vander Weide layup with 7:14 left in the second quarter. This was the biggest the Marist lead would get. Fairfield refused to fold, relentlessly chipping away and vexing the Red Foxes as they switched between man-to-man and a 2-3 zone. Lopez-Senechal hit a three before the halftime buzzer, which narrowed the Marist lead to a slim 28-27 margin and capped a 17-3 Stags run.
Hand hit a jumper that stretched the Red Foxes lead to 34-30 in a scrappy, low-scoring third quarter. Andrea Hernangomez completed a three-point play that put Fairfield up 35-34 with 2:05 in the frame, giving them their first lead since 6-4 in the early first quarter. Hand hit a three with 20 seconds left that put Marist up 38-37 but Kramer came back with a layup that gave the Stags a 39-38 lead heading into the fourth.
The Red Foxes could not take the lid off the basket during the most crucial juncture of the game. They watched their slim one-point deficit slowly grow to 11 as Lopez-Senechal hit a three to make it 49-38. Marist went an excruciating six-minutes and forty-three seconds without scoring. The drought was only stopped when Vander Weide split a pair at free-throw to cut it to 49-39.
The first Red Foxes field goal of the quarter did not until the 2:23 mark when Hand converted a layup. Marist refused to go quietly, getting the ball inside with a sense of urgency that was absent for much of the second and third quarters. Alana Gilmer made a layup to cut the lead to 49-47 with 1:05 left.
“I liked how we came back at the end,” said Giorgis. “We showed them we had some fight and we came back, but credit to them for pulling it out in the end, they deserved to win.”
Fairfield, who had struggled against Marist’s pressure defense, came up with a crucial score that proved to be the dagger. Hernangomez hit a 16-footer that bounced high off the iron only to fall through the net, giving the Stags a 51-47 advantage with 38 seconds left. Vander Weide was able to draw a foul on a putback opportunity but could only hit one-of-two foul shots to make it 51-48 with 20 seconds left.
The Red Foxes were forced to foul Kramer who made one-of-two from the line, giving Fairfield a 52-48 lead. Marist tried to score quickly but could not execute as a Molly Smith jumper glanced off the iron. It was the first Marist loss at Fairfield since 2010.
The Red Foxes were held to 21-of-57 (37%) shooting from the field and an abysmal three-of-15 from long range. Marist also struggled from the foul line, managing just three makes in eight attempts, missing crucial freebies down the stretch.
The Stags went 20-of-52 (39%) from the field and an identical three-of-15 from three-point range. They outrebounded the Red Foxes 40-34 and double Marist’s bench production, outscoring them 10-5. Marist will have a quick turnaround as they are due to host Niagara on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Edited by Will Bjarnar
Header photo by Mike Cahill