Marist opens up postseason play in Atlantic City against Niagara tonight. Both teams will be looking for their second win of the season in this matchup after splitting two games towards beginning of conference play.
On January 1, Marist earned a 63-61 victory over Niagara at McCann Arena. The Purple Eagles had a three-point lead going into halftime, but the Red Foxes stormed back with a run of their own in the first five minutes of the second half. Marist regained a one point advantage with 14:33 left in the game, and they never looked back. The Red Foxes never led by more than seven points, but the team managed to hold on in the end.
The following afternoon was a different story for Marist, especially on the defensive end. Niagara scored 51 points in the first half, and it was mostly down to their efficient shooting from the perimeter. The Purple Eagles connected on ten triples in the opening half, and the Red Foxes didn’t have enough to make a comeback in the second half. The team cut the deficit to seven, but Marist eventually lost by a score of 86-72.
Containing junior Marcus Hammond will be the biggest key for the Marist in their quarterfinal matchup with Niagara. The 6-foot-2-inch guard was named to the 2020-21 All-MAAC Second Team after averaging 13.2 points per game on 34.8 percent shooting from the field and 31.5 percent shooting from downtown. If the team can do a quality job containing Hammond, it could make things very difficult for Niagara on the offensive end.
Another player that can create a lot of matchup problems for Marist is redshirt senior Kobi Nwandu. After sitting the 2019-2020 season out, the 6-foot-6-inch forward has thrived alongside Hammond. Nwandu was also selected for the 2020-21 All-MAAC Second Team after leading the team in scoring with 14.5 points per game. The Red Foxes will need to contain both of these players in order to give themselves a good chance to win.
How freshman Ricardo Wright performs will be a major factor for Marist on the offensive end as well. The 6-foot-4-inch guard averaged a team-high 11.4 points per game on 39.8 shooting from the field and 34 percent from behind the arc. If Wright plays at the same level he showed all season, he could have a huge scoring night in his first postseason game for the Red Foxes.
Coach John Dunne will also look for 6-foot-8-inch redshirt senior center Jordan Jones to stay out of foul trouble. With senior center Zion Tordoff and redshirt junior center Victor Enoh out for the remainder of the season, the team only has one rim protector. Jones is currently averaging 9.2 points per game along with leading the team in total rebounds and blocks, so his impact against Niagara could be the difference between a win and a loss.
With both teams earning a regular season victory in this matchup, this game will be tight down the stretch. Hammond and Nwandu have the ability to score in bunches, but the experience of Dunne will lead the Red Foxes to a huge victory.
Prediction: Marist over Niagara: 67-63
Edited by Bridget Reilly
Photo Credit: Michael Cahill