Marist picked up their fourth straight win in conference play by defeating the Purple Eagles 63-61. The Red Foxes are now at the top of the MAAC after Saint Peter’s loss on the road to Canisius earlier this afternoon.
One point of emphasis for Marist was to do a quality job making things tough for preseason All-MAAC First Team selection Marcus Hammond. The 6-foot-2-inch guard had his way in the first half, scoring 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field.
The story of the first half for Marist was their inability to create driving lanes to the basket. Niagara did a great job forcing the Red Foxes into contested shots from the perimeter. Six makes from the three-point line allowed Marist to weather the storm and keep the game close going into halftime.
Even with all of their struggles offensively, the Red Foxes went into halftime only down 23-26. “It felt fortunate to only be down one possession after the first half. I didn’t think mentally we were engaged on either end,” coach John Dunne said about the team’s play in the first half.
It was a much different story in the second half for the Red Foxes offensively. Marist had trouble getting touches for redshirt senior Jordan Jones and redshirt junior Victor Enoh on the interior, but that changed early in the second period. Six of their first fifteen points came from in the paint, including a layup from Enoh to give the team a three point lead with just under fourteen minutes to go.
Marist created more scoring opportunities in the paint during the second half, but the ability to shoot from the outside put the team on another level. The Red Foxes hit seven more triples after halftime, which was extremely important in order to hold onto the lead. “For me, it’s just about taking what the defense gives to me,” said junior guard Raheim Sullivan about his performance offensively.
The Red Foxes held a lead for a majority of the second half, and some late free throws sealed the deal in the last minute. Jones and freshman guard Ricardo Wright knocked down four shots from the charity stripe to put the game away for Marist. The Red Foxes are shooting 77 percent from the line this season, and that has certainly helped the team in close games down the stretch.
A balanced scoring attack for the team came to the forefront in conference play once again. Marist had three players finish in double figures, including Wright, Sullivan, and junior forward Braden Bell. If coach Dunne can continue to get contributions from different players, it will go a long way for the development of this team on the offensive end.
Defensively, the impact junior guard Matt Herasme had on Hammond specifically in the second half proved to be crucial. “Matt really does separate himself as far as his effort level and knowing exactly what he is supposed to do on the defensive end to frustrate the opponent,” said Dunne about the defensive intensity from Herasme against Niagara.
Through seven games, the Red Foxes lead the conference in scoring defense. The team is only giving up an average of 60.7 points per game, which is one of the biggest reasons why the team is off to a 6-1 start.
The ability to defend the basket while staying out of foul trouble will be one the keys for Marist moving forward. When players like Jones and Enoh have been able to stay on the floor, their impact in the paint has been pivotal to the team’s success.
Marist will return to conference play at 2 p.m. tomorrow, January 2, where they face the Niagara Purple Eagles at McCann Arena in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Edited by Bridget Reilly