There were some times last weekend when Marist felt out of sync. Against Rider, the Red Foxes played two close games that should have been dominant victories for them. On Sunday, a late defensive surge in the final minutes of the game allowed Marist to escape with a 47-46 victory. On Monday, the Red Foxes beat Rider again with a final score of 70-57. That score is deceiving as Rider controlled the tides of that game for much of the first half. However, the Red Foxes found a way to rally after the break and end the game with a “W.”
With a short week, the Red Foxes are already back in action against the Siena Saints (another MAAC opponent with a deceiving record) this Saturday and Sunday. Will the Red Foxes be able to finish yet another weekend with a series sweep? Here’s where, when, and how I think the weekend will shape out.
Who, What, When, and Where?
Marist (10-2, 8-2 MAAC) vs. Siena (2-3, 2-3 MAAC)
Dates: Saturday, February 12, and Sunday, February 13
Location: Alumni Recreation Center, Troy, NY
TV: Saturday – 2 pm, ESPN+; Sunday – 2 pm, ESPN3
Series History: Marist leads 37-30
Current Streak: Over the last 10 matchups, Marist is 7-3 against Siena
Last Game: The two teams’ last matchup occurred on March 7, 2020, which resulted in an 81-69 victory for the Red Foxes
Red Foxes’ Keys to Victory
The Red Foxes cannot play down to the level of their “Route 9 Rivals” this weekend. We have seen Marist struggle the last two weekends against Niagara and Rider, which many would call “weaker” opponents. This is starting to sound repetitive, but it seems like the Red Foxes continue to struggle when they are expected to pull out the “easy” wins. No game is easy, but Marist is statistically better than the majority of the teams they have struggled against this season. Both matchups between Niagara were closer than many expected, and the same with Rider.
Marist needs to find their rhythm early and work on producing points from the arc. Over the last four matchups, the Red Foxes have not shot above 30% from long distance. Luckily, it seems like Marist was starting to find some rhythm in the shooting department late in the second half on Monday. Trinasia Kennedy shot 3-for-4 from three-point range and totaled 20 points, 15 of which came in the second half. Julie Bonilla, the second-year reserve, also came up big for the Red Foxes off the bench. She iced the game by nailing a triple late in the fourth quarter. Hopefully, Marist can build off this late surge and start the weekend off right with shooting precision.
The defense will continue to be the focal point for the Red Foxes. If they can continue to find ways to keep their opponents to under 60 points, they will continue to pull away late in the game. Caitlin Weimar’s defensive presence was a major key to Marist’s victory on Sunday. She finished with four blocks and continues to add to her impressive rookie campaign. Willow Duffell also helped defensively as she finished with six rebounds and five steals. The defense has fueled this Marist team and will continue to be a major factor late in the season.
Red Fox to Watch
Sarah Barcello is my Red Fox to watch this weekend. Barcello, coming off an injury, made her return to the starting lineup last weekend against Rider. It was her first time back since January 9th. Easing her way back into the lineup on Sunday, Coach Giorgis played Barcello for 26 minutes where she helped the Red Foxes late in the game on defense and totaled six points.
Barcello’s early success continued on Monday where she increased her play to 34 minutes and made her way into double-digit scoring, finishing with 12 points. She will be a major help to the Red Foxes on offense as she is averaging 13.3 points per game this season. Let’s hope she can pick up where she left off before injury and get back to the shooting form she had against Quinnipiac (1/3/21) where she shot 10-for-16 from the field and totaled 25 points. The Red Foxes are 8-1 when Barcello is in the starting lineup. Look for her play to increase this weekend and for her presence to boost the Red Foxes’ offensive production.
Saints’ Keys to Success
COVID-19 has hit Siena hard this year. They began their season in early December losing a double-header weekend to the Fairfield Stags. Two days after the matchup, Siena was put on pause on December 14th due to a positive COVID case in their tier 1 personnel. This “pause in play” seemed to be the motto of their season for the rest of the way.
After many changes to Siena’s schedule, they were set to play Canisius on January 3rd and 4th. However, due to a positive COVID case in Canisius’s tier 1 personnel, that matchup was postponed. We can go on and on about Siena’s struggles this season, but to sum it all up: coronavirus has created difficulty for Siena (more than perhaps any other team in the MAAC) resulting in numerous schedule changes and pauses in play.
Finally, Siena got to play Rider on January 9th and 10th. The Saints stood strong and showed everyone coronavirus pauses did not affect them. They won both games, the first ending in a 73-64 victory, the second ending with a score of 69-60.
You guessed it, after this series, Siena was put on another pause in play resulting in even more schedule changes. As a result, they were not able to play another match up until February 3rd which resulted in a close 61-60 Monmouth victory in a game where the Saints only dressed six players. And here they are, standing at 2-3.
Siena must find ways to break Marist’s defense, which has been their lifesaver late in the game. If the Saints can start the game hot and play that way all the way through, not letting Marist make a late surge and defensive stance in the second half, they have a shot. Siena and Marist had very similar statistics in their matchups against Rider. In the second game against Rider, both teams shot nearly 40 percent from the field and each squad struggled from the arc as well hitting only 30 percent of their three-pointers.
The Saints will need to boost their offensive production overall as they are only shooting 35 percent from the field and 28 percent from beyond the arc. Opponents have outscored them by 5.4 points per game in their short season.
Siena got off to a slow start against Monmouth being down by a score of 35-22 heading into the break. We have seen Marist struggle in the first half of the past two weekends as well. Siena and Marist seem to have similar issues. The Saints will need to find ways to produce big early in the game and continue that lead into the second half.
Saint to Watch
Keep an eye on Isis Young this weekend. Young’s journey to Loudonville is worthy of an article in and of itself, but the seventh-year guard has stops at Florida, Syracuse, and Fordham on her resume.
Across the five game span, Young has averaged 19.2 points per game, shooting 37 percent from deep. Young has started all five games for the Saints and is a major piece to their offense. She had 28 points against Monmouth last weekend. The 5-foot-7 guard from New Jersey will be one to watch.
Rayshel Brown will be another Saint to watch this weekend. The Senior from Staten Island will be another key offensive producer for the Saints. She averages 12.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Her defensive pressure on guards such as Trinasia Kennedy, Allie Best, and Sarah Barcello will be key matches to look for. Brown has nine steals across the five game span for the Saints.
I think the Saints have a legitimate chance to pull out at least one victory this weekend. I do not think they will sweep Marist, but I do think they can pull out a victory on Friday night.
Marist is coming off a short week and a difficult one too. They struggled early in both games against Rider. They cannot afford to get off to another slow start against the Saints. Siena is a hungry team. They rank 8th in MAAC standings and desperately need to play more games so they can make the trip to Atlantic City. Marist is feeling confident, perhaps relaxed too. Siena could use this as an opportunity to catch them in a moment of weakness.
The Saints are the underdogs yet again in this one, but I think they may surprise a lot of people this weekend. Marist needs to improve on offense and continue to build upon their powerful defense, especially late in the game. This weekend should be an interesting series for both teams.
Ultimately, it comes down to which Marist team comes out to play this weekend. If the Marist team who beat Fairfield by 18 points comes out, Siena will stand no chance. If the Marist team who played against Rider in the first half on Sunday comes out, Siena will win. We’ll see if Marist can lock up two more wins as the MAAC Tournament gets closer and closer.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane and Sam DiGiovanni
Image courtesy of Marist Athletics