I wrote a preview for this matchup over three weeks ago, saying that this would be one of the most important matchups for both teams this season. Even though the original games were postponed due to COVID-19 complications, that point remains. These two games will be a deciding factor in the overall MAAC standings, especially down the stretch if tie-breakers become necessary. Hopefully, we get games this time.
Who, What, When, and Where?
Marist (7-1, 5-1 MAAC) vs Fairfield (5-1, 4-0 MAAC)
Dates: Friday, January 15 and Saturday, January 16
Location: Alumni Hall, Fairfield, CT
TV: Friday ESPN3, Saturday ESPN+, both games tip-off at 7 p.m.
Series History: Marist leads 36-20
Current Streak: Marist has won five out of the last six games, with the exception being a loss last season at Alumni Hall on January 30, the most recent Marist loss
Last Game: Marist cruised over the Stags 75-45 at McCann on February 24, 2020
Red Foxes Keys to Victory
There’s no question about it. These two games against Fairfield are going to be Marist’s biggest challenge yet. If they want to make it through the series unscathed, the Red Foxes will have to lean on their defensive abilities. In their last four games, Fairfield has scored nearly 70 points or more in each game. Marist, meanwhile, has only scored more than 60 points in one of their last four matchups. Playing intense, physical defense against a high-scoring opponent like Fairfield would allow Marist to take quality shots rather than forcing shots to keep up the pace.
Marist will also have to find a way to improve their shooting, which has been an area of the game where the team has struggled lately. In their previous four matchups, Marist averaged 33 percent shooting from the field compared to Fairfield’s solid 49 percent mark. Marist will have to take smarter shots to keep pace with Fairfield’s shooting efficiency.
Red Fox to Watch
In Sunday’s game against Manhattan, junior guard Kendall Krick got the start over fellow junior guard Sarah Barcello, who has struggled recently and is now suffering from a lower-body injury. In Sunday’s matchup against Manhattan, Krick only scored two points in her 30 minutes of play. If Krick gets the start again against Fairfield, it will be interesting to see if her play improves as she grows more comfortable in her new role. With Barcello’s status questionable at best, she may get a chance to showcase her prodigious defense against the Stags.
Stags Keys to Victory
Fairfield’s ability to score off of turnovers in these last few games has been impressive, and it’s going to play a major role in their games against Marist. In their previous three games, Fairfield has been able to score 20 points or more off turnovers. This has been possible thanks to their ability to force their opposition into giveaways, earning eight blocks and 30 steals in their past three games.
To play well against players like Caitlin Weimar and Willow Duffell, a team needs a player who can play big and rebound with solid efficiency. The Stags have a minus 5 rebounding margin and they’re going up against the team that leads the MAAC in that category. There’s no doubt that Fairfield’s ability to win will heavily rely on their forwards, a group that includes the talented Lou Lopez-Senechal.
Stag to Watch
Speaking of Lopez-Senechal, she is tied for the league lead in scoring with 18.2 points per contest. The preseason MAAC Player of the Year went off for 27 in a game against Rider and surpassed the 20-point barrier on two other occasions this season. Oh, and she’s 19-for-31 from three-point range and can create space in the mid-range game. Look for her to go against Duffell and freshman forward Zaria Demember-Shazer this weekend. If those two can her slow her down, Fairfield has other options, but Lopez-Senechal is the proverbial straw that stirs the drink.
So, this series has the potential to shape the MAAC standings for the rest of the season. A win in either of these games has big implications for both teams, which could potentially drive the athletes to play harder than they have all season. With that in mind, I see both games coming down to the wire, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the teams came away with a split when the dust has settled.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane