Among all the swirling rumors about the coronavirus outbreak, Marist turned in a workmanlike performance in the quarterfinals of the MAAC Tournament, defeating Monmouth 68-44 in Atlantic City.
It was a matchup between the top scoring offense and top scoring defense in the MAAC. It was Marist’s defense, however, that stole the show and took the Hawks out of their comfort zone. The Red Foxes’ winning streak now sits at 12 games as they prepare for the semifinals on Friday.
“I was really pleased with the defense tonight,” said Marist head coach Brian Giorgis. “The offense started slow and finally got it going at the end of the first quarter, but the defense was there the whole way.”
Marist now 26-4 overall, led in scoring by its all-MAAC selections. Rebekah Hand led the way with 18 points and now sits just six points short of 2,000 for her career. Fellow first-team-all-conference selection Alana Gilmer had 15 on six-of-nine shooting and conference second-teamer Grace Vander Weide had 14, including a trio of three-pointers. Willow Duffell was the fourth Red Fox in double-figures with 10.
“I was really impressed by our performance tonight,” said senior guard Grace Vander Weide. “We just tried to be selfless out there and we made it our goal to execute the scouting report and play well on defense.”
Monmouth finishes the season 9-22. Rosa Graham led the Hawks with 11 points and Akilah Jennings chipped in with 10. Sierra Green, who had 26 in Monday’s win over Iona was held to just four points.
A tight opening five minutes saw Marist struggle against Monmouth’s perpetually vexing defense. Trailing by one, the Red Foxes found their stride and ended the quarter on a 13-2 run, capped by a Sarah Barcello three-pointer which gave Marist a 19-9 lead.
The Red Foxes challenged the Hawks, the worst three-point shooting team in the MAAC, to score from the perimeter. Monmouth was unable to do so as Marist stifled top scoring threats Alexa Middleton and Green. After Monmouth’s Jen Louro hit a three to make it 29-19 with under three minutes in the half, the Red Foxes once again came up with a demoralizing run.
Vander Weide hit a three to extend the lead to 15 and Molly Smith hit a buzzer-beater of her own to put the finishing touches on a quick 11-3 run. Marist led 40-22 at the half.
The Red Foxes continued to press their advantage by getting the basketball into the paint. Two layups from Hand and one from Duffell extended the advantage to 46-22 and forced a Monmouth timeout. This was the gut punch for the Hawks, who could not muster anything on the offensive side of the ball. Monmouth used a full-court press against Marist reserves to cut the lead down to 50-30. Giorgis, frustrated by the sloppy play, immediately summoned for his starters to reenter the game. Hand restored order with a corner three and the Red Foxes regained their stranglehold, taking a 59-33 lead to the fourth quarter.
The only question in the fourth quarter was when Giorgis would take his starters off the floor. His core group remained on the floor long enough for Vander Weide to extend the lead to 66-35 with a three. With the starters finally off the floor, the reserves were able to play the last few minutes against Monmouth’s seniors, who were savoring their last tastes of collegiate action. The Hawks closed the game on a high note with a 9-0 run.
“It was nice to get the kids some rest at the end of the game,” said Giorgis. “We get a day off tomorrow, but then it’s two games in two days, hopefully.”
Marist shot a scorching 27-of-48 (56 percent) from the floor and finished seven-of-15 from beyond the arc. The team put up 21 assists compared to a less than stellar 19 turnovers.
Monmouth was held to an abysmal 16-of-51 (32 percent) on their field goal attempts. They did not fare much better from three-point range, finishing just four-of-21. The Hawks also struggled to an eight-of-20 mark from the foul line.
The Red Foxes will take on the winner of Fairfield vs. Siena which is to be played later today. The semi-final will tip-off at approximately 1:30 p.m.
“One at a time, right?” said Vander Weide, echoing her team’s sentiment.
It was later announced that the MAAC would bar all non-essential personnel beginning with Thursday’s games, a move that came after the NCAA announced it would be playing tournament games without any fans.
Edited by Amelia Nick
Photo Credits to Marist Athletics