Marist will begin the new year with conference play in a matchup against the Niagara Purple Eagles. The Red Foxes will look to build off a three-game winning streak following a road sweep of the Manhattan Jaspers.
Niagara is coming into this weekend with a lot of confidence as well, as they have won three straight games as well. After two dominant victories over the Fairfield Stags, the Purple Eagles overcame a first-half deficit and sneaked past the University of Albany 70-65 in their previous game.
One point of emphasis for the Red Foxes defensively will be containing 6-foot-2 guard Marcus Hammond. The junior from Queens, New York was picked in the preseason All-MAAC First Team after averaging 14.3 points per game on 44.0 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Through six games, Hammond is averaging 13.7 points per game, including a season-high 24 points in a win against Fairfield on December 19th. If the Marist guards can do a quality job forcing him into difficult shots, the Red Foxes will have a great chance to win this game.
Redshirt senior Kobi Nwandu from Le Moyne is a transfer who could play a major role for Niagara this weekend. After putting up 16.6 points per game two seasons ago, the 6-foot-6 forward has quickly become a secondary scorer behind Hammond. Putting pressure on both of these players will be extremely important for the success of the Red Foxes.
A balanced attack for the Red Foxes on the offensive end will be key against the Purple Eagles. Marist has four players averaging at least eight points per game: Ricardo Wright, Rahiem Sullivan, Hakim Byrd, and Braden Bell. The ability to get scoring in a multitude of ways will create more open looks at the basket.
One x-factor for Marist in this matchup will be keeping their frontcourt players out of foul trouble. In the first six games of the season, Victor Enoh and Jordan Jones have combined for 40 personal fouls. Having the ability to stay active and challenge shots in the paint is important for the Red Foxes defensively.
On December 20th versus the Manhattan Jaspers, Enoh picked up his fourth foul with more than seven minutes left in the second half. Coach John Dunne left the 6-foot-7 center in the game. It proved to be the right decision, as the University of Memphis transfer made things difficult for the Manhattan big men while adding some crucial free throws down the stretch.
Going into this matchup, both Marist and Niagara are coming off their first conference sweeps of the season. If Marcus Hammond has a big performance and the Marist backcourt has trouble containing him, the Red Foxes could be in for a long afternoon. With that being said, I believe the ability to get scoring from everyone will allow Marist to earn their first conference win at home on Friday afternoon.
Score Prediction: Marist over Niagara 66 to 61
Edited by Sam DiGiovanni
Photo Courtesy of Marist Athletics