Marist earned a split with Saint Peter’s following a 51-50 victory over the Peacocks on Saturday night. This is the team’s first win on the road against Saint Peter’s since 2012. The Red Foxes are now 10-8 (8-8 in the MAAC) this season.
The biggest story of the first half revolved around the defensive intensity from the Red Foxes. Saint Peter’s shot 5/26 from the field and 0/9 from behind the arc in the first half, and the lead could have been even bigger for Marist if the Peacocks didn’t shoot 6/8 from the free throw line in the opening twenty minutes.
Rahiem Sullivan connected on a pull-up three at the top of the key as the clock expired, giving the team a 25-16 lead going into halftime.
Saint Peter’s gained some ground in the early stretches of the second half, but one of the bigger moments in the game came with 7:16 left in the half. With Victor Enoh and Zion Tordoff out for the remainder of the season, the only interior presence the team has is Jordan Jones.
After staying out of foul trouble for a majority of the game, the Marist bigman picked up his fourth and fifth on the same play. A personal foul along with a technical foul ended the night for Jones, making it even more difficult to hold onto their slim six point lead.
“At that moment, we could’ve wilted away,” head coach John Dunne said about the team’s spirit after Jones fouled out.
As the game started to wind down, Marist continued to fight and show a lot of grit on both ends of the floor. Ricardo Wright and Javon Cooley hit some crucial free throws, and the game was tight right until the end.
With less than a minute to go, freshman Hakim Byrd was given the opportunity to make a winning play for the Red Foxes. The 5-foot-10 guard drove to the basket with the shot clock expiring, and he finished with his right hand to give Marist a 50-48 lead with 16.3 seconds to go.
On the ensuing possession, Saint Peter’s guard Matthew Lee found KC Ndefo cutting to the basket for an alley-oop dunk to tie the game up at 50 with 8.1 seconds to go.
Marist looked to regain the lead following a timeout from Dunne. As the time began to drift away, the ball was in the hands of Hakim Byrd once again. Just as he did on the previous possession, Byrd drove to the left side of the basket. As he was looking to make a pass to a teammate in the corner, a whistle was blown. Byrd was going to the free throw line following a foul committed by Lee of the Peacocks.
After Byrd connected on 1/2 free throws to give the Red Foxes a one point lead with less than two seconds to go, coach Holloway called a timeout to draw a play up for the Peacocks. Saint Peter’s had to go the length of the court in an attempt to get a good look at the basket. Ricardo Wright denied the inbounder, and a shot from Lee misfired, giving Marist a critical road victory.
Jones led the way for the Red Foxes, scoring 15 points on 6/10 shooting from the field along with six rebounds. Javon Cooley was the only other player for Marist who got into double figures, scoring ten points, 1/2 shooting from behind the arc, and 7/8 from the free throw line.
“We were struggling to score with Jordan on the bench, and he did a really good job of making the free throws for us,” Dunne said about Cooley’s impact down the stretch.
Byrd scored eight points on 3/10 shooting from the field, including a few critical buckets at the end of the game.
“It says a lot of his mental toughness that we were willing to go to him in that last possession,” Dunne said about the team trusting Byrd at the end of the game.
Ndefo had another strong game for the Peacocks, scoring 15 points on 5/7 shooting from the field.
Marist will return to conference play on Feb. 24 at 5 p.m., when they face the Iona Gaels at McCann Arena in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Edited by Nicholas Stanziale