The Red Foxes are coming off an exhausting back-and-forth weekend performance against newly ranked top dogs, the Fairfield Stags. On January 15, the Marist Women’s Basketball team flexed their defensive skills, shutting down the Stags and taking home the victory with a final score of 56-38. The following day, the Red Foxes struggled offensively down the stretch, ending in a heartbreaking Fairfield 61-58 win. This bumped Marist down to second place in MAAC play while placing Fairfield back on top.
This weekend, Marist looks for a clean slate as the Red Foxes face Niagara in a doubleheader series. Here’s the breakdown of when, where, and how the Red Foxes can secure back to back wins this weekend.
Who, What, When, and Where?
Marist (8-2, 6-2 MAAC) vs Niagara (1-1, 1-1 MAAC)
Dates: Friday, January 22, and Saturday, January 23
Location: Gallagher Center, Niagara County, NY
TV: Friday – 4 pm, ESPN3; Saturday – 4 pm, ESPN+
Series History: Marist leads 35-15
Current Streak: Over the last 10 matches between Marist and Niagara, the Red Foxes have won eight and lost two and have been on a four-game win streak
Last Game: In their previous matchup on February 1, 2020, Marist won 82-57
Red Foxes’ Keys to Victory
In hopes to bounce back from their offensive struggles over the past few weeks, the Red Foxes must maintain point production for the full four quarters. Marist will need to shoot better from the field. In the only two losses this season, the Red Foxes averaged 35 percent shooting from the floor. Earlier in the season, Marist shot over 50 percent on three occasions and averaged 44 percent shooting in their eight wins thus far. When the Red Foxes can net the shots, the tides of the game shift in their favor. The Red Foxes must get back to their early-season shooting form to secure both wins this weekend.
Of course, successful shooting is not the only factor in winning a ball game. The Red Foxes must maintain their high and intense defense, which is ranked fourth in the country for scoring defense. On average, the Red Foxes have held opponents to just 50.6 points per game. In Marist’s only two losses, both games were decided by four points or fewer. When Marist holds opponents to around 50-55 points or less, it is almost a lock the girls pull out a win. On Saturday against Fairfield, Marist had zero blocks. When comparing these stats to the Red Foxes’ major wins against Army West Point and Albany, the Red Foxes totaled five blocks and four blocks respectively. Giorgis will need his forwards to get back in the face and defend the paint against Niagara. The motto “defense wins games” will be especially important for the Red Foxes to hold onto this weekend.
With the perfect mix of Marist’s shutout defense and fixing the mechanics on the shots from both the paint and the perimeter, Marist can have a chance at a statement weekend.
Red Foxes to Watch
Coming off a stellar performance this past Saturday against Fairfield, my Red Fox to watch is sophomore guard Trinasia Kennedy. Kennedy had a career-high 26 points with five three-pointers this past Saturday. 16 of those points came in the first half, where Marist led 37-30 going into the break.
If Kennedy’s shooting success from Saturday continues and she can find ways to maintain her shot progression in the second half, Niagara will have a tough time containing the Red Foxes from the perimeter. When the Red Foxes are shooting well from the arc, they are almost impossible to stop.
In addition to Kennedy, I think viewers need to keep an eye on Caitlin Weimar. The 6-foot-4 freshman, who I had the pleasure of versing in High School during my own basketball days. Weimar has been nothing short of dominant thus far in the paint. She has a team-high 13 blocks, with eight steals. If Weimar can continue to cause havoc in the paint on both offense and defense, Niagara will have a hard time finding a rhythm.
Purple Eagles’ Key to Success
The Purple Eagles have only played two games this season, both in-conference games against Iona. The first resulted in a 65-47 loss (that was closer than it looked), while the second ended in an 81-63 Niagara victory. The MAAC coaches slotted Niagara 10th in the preseason poll, but we know how accurate those can be. One may look at their low status and set Marist as a lock for both games this weekend; but, as we all know, no game is ever set in stone. Niagara is no doubt coming in as the underdog this weekend.
However, Marist is coming off a long weekend filled with several ups and downs. In comparison, Niagara is coming off a two-week quarantine due to a positive COVID-19 case among the program’s tier 1 personnel. This resulted in Niagara’s games against Rider and Fairfield being canceled. Niagara has not played in a game in three weeks.
This three-week break will cause the Purple Eagles to come out with some cobwebs, but also, perhaps, with some fire. When Marist came off their two-week quarantine against Quinnipiac we saw a massive, albeit surprising performance that resulted in a 69-50 Marist victory.
The Purple Eagles must get off to a hot start early in the game. They will need to lock down players like Caitlin Weimar and Willow Duffell inside and be aggressive when rebounding and boxing out. They need to ensure Marist does not get the second shot opportunities, where the inside forwards for Marist have sometimes scored at will. If the Purple Eagles can lock down these key players and limit Marist’s opportunities to produce inside, they will have a legitimate chance to upset the Red Foxes.
Purple Eagle to Watch
The guard duo of Ally Haar (5-foot-8) and Angel Parker (5-foot-5) will be the Purple Eagles to watch this weekend. Haar had a career-high 19 points during Niagara’s win against Iona on January 2. She was six-for-six from the line as well as three-for-six from beyond the arc. The Red Foxes must be sure to keep the ball out of her hands and keep her off the foul line, especially late in the game.
Angel Parker, the Big 4 Hoops Player of the Week on January 5, is another key piece of Niagara’s frontcourt. She totaled 26 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists in a massive game during Niagara’s win against Iona. Over the two-game span, she averaged 17.5 points per game. She is an aggressive, gritty, and quick player on the defensive end, totaling seven steals and 14 defensive rebounds. Look for Trinasia Kennedy, who did a tremendous defensive job on Fairfield’s Lou Lopez-Senechal to draw the assignment. If she gets hot early, she can be a real problem for Marist.
Parker and Haar have been the beginning keys to Niagara’s success. For Niagara to upset Marist, the Purple Eagles’ will need stellar performances from this guard duo.
There is no question Marist has more experience coming into this series, with Marist playing a total of ten games compared to Niagara’s two. But do not count Niagara out just yet, experience does not equal an automatic win. If Niagara can get a hot and quick start from Parker and Haar, they will be legitimate competitors in this series.
I do see Marist having a massive win in the first game back on Friday. I think the loss from the Fairfield game will build momentum in favor of the Red Foxes, bringing in an energy that will be difficult for Niagara to handle coming off a three-week break. With that, I predict the game on Saturday to have a much closer finish. If Niagara picks up on the flaws from Marist from the previous game and keeps the game within their reach from the start, they will have a legitimate chance against the Red Foxes.
However, in the end, I do think Marist will end the weekend back in the win column with a win on Saturday, as long as they convert their shots in the second half and maintain that high-pressure defense for the full duration of the game.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane
Photo Courtesy of Marist Athletics