Going into Friday night’s contest, Marist had a great opportunity to move up in the standings against a struggling Fairfield squad. The Red Foxes were coming off a big conference win against Saint Peters, while Fairfield had dropped their two previous MAAC games. In the end, though, the Red Foxes would tend to adhere to their tendencies: collapsing late against an equally talented foe. Tonight, it just happened to be Fairfield, and tonight, the Stags walked away winning 57-53 in overtime. It was Marist’s fourth trip to an extra period this season, tying the program’s record for a single season.
Throughout the first half, the Red Foxes struggled to get into a type of rhythm. The team only shot 29 percent from the field, which made Marist really rely on their defense to stay in the game. The active defense of Marist forced eight Fairfield turnovers in the opening 20 minutes, really putting a lot of pressure on the opposing guards. Marist held the Stags to a lowly 25 percent shooting in the first half, which knotted the score at 19 going into halftime.
In the early stages of the second half, the Marist offense began to improve slightly. They put up 11 points in the first five-and-a-half minutes of the second half, showing some signs that they could score at a better clip throughout the final frame or so.
As Marist went on scoring droughts during long stretches of the second half, the team relied on Matthew Herasme to put points on the board. The sophomore guard hit two massive threes in the middle part of the second half, giving the Red Foxes a chance to pull away with a victory.
The score was within one or two points between both teams down the stretch of the second half, and you felt that the game was going to come down to a last-second shot. Both teams continued to fight on the defensive end and force tough shots. When the tough shots turned to misses, you’d see the usual suspect on the boards — that being Jordan Jones, who finished with six — though he was joined by some newcomers to the high-rebounding core. Herasme (eight) and Cubbage (nine) led the team; the tandem combined for a capable 20 points as well.
In the later stages of the game, Fairfield was able to take advantage of the foul trouble Marist got themselves into early in the half. The Red Foxes were forced to be less physical, with Farfield being in the bonus for over 11 minutes in the second half.
With Fairfield leading by one as the clock ticked a bit more severely, Michael Cubbage found the ball in his hands per usual. This time, though, he elected to take a shot he has shied away from over the course of the season. The 21-percent three-point shooter nailed a three to take the lead, to which the proud appropriately responded with a roar they have seldom been able to this season. After two clutch free throws from Fairfield to tie the game, Marist had possession of the ball in the frontcourt with 2.8 seconds remaining. Sophomore Braden Bell got a great look off that went halfway down, though it did not fall, sending the game to overtime.
Overtime was much of the same, as points were hard to come by for both teams. Free throws were the main factor in the extra period, as Taj Benning of Farfield hit all eight of his from the charity stripe, most of them coming in the later stages of the game. Overall, Marist missed some assignments on defense in overtime, on top of having empty offensive possessions aplenty that ultimately cost them the game.
Despite all the disappointment in the arena following the loss, head coach John Dunne came away with some positives. “I am always proud of these guys’ preparation, their spirit, and their effort,” he said after the game. “We will look to bounce back and give a great effort on Sunday.”
The Red Foxes dropped to 6-16 overall with a conference record of 5-8, and are now 2-6 in games decided by five points or less. Marist will travel to Iona for another key conference game on Sunday afternoon. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Edited by Will Bjarnar
Header photo from Mike Cahill