Marist Falls Short to Complete the Comeback in Season Opener

The Marist men’s basketball team didn’t disappoint in their season opener, providing a competitive back-and-forth matchup with American. Marist had their chances to grab a hold of the game, but ended up taking a 77-73 loss on the road.

Samkelo Cele, a 6-foot-5 senior forward from South Africa, got the start in his first game with the Red Foxes after playing last season at Southern University. 

It was a struggle on the offensive end for each team in the first half. Both Marist and American were finding openings at the basket, but they were just simply not falling. The teams shot a combined two-for-18 from behind the arc in the first twenty minutes.  

While most guys struggled to score in the early going, Raheim Sullivan was the one player for Marist who had the touch in the first half. The 6-foot-1senior guard got the scoring started for the Red Foxes with a triple from the top of the key. Sullivan also had a three-point-play following a tough finish near the free throw line. The senior from Toronto led all scorers with 11 as the Red Foxes held a 26-24 lead heading into the break.

The offense started to come alive for the Red Foxes to begin the second half, scoring a quick eight points in the first 2:33 to take a 36-28 lead. American went on a run of their own, as the Eagles would eventually take a 37-36 lead following a three-pointer from senior guard Stacy Becton Jr. Neither team showed the ability to pull away, leading to a one possession game with 38 seconds remaining.

With the Red Foxes trailing by two, the team got a stop when they needed it most. American’s Becton Jr. had his layup blocked by graduate student center Jordan Jones, sending Marist out on a fastbreak opportunity. Cele missed a layup in transition, but sophomore guard Ricardo Wright was in perfect position for the offensive rebound. The Eagles came down the floor with a chance to win the game in regulation, but were unable to do so. 

Marist got off to a good start in overtime, scoring the first four points of the period through two free throws from Wright and a layup from Cele. All signs pointed towards the Red Foxes finding a way to get in, but the Eagles immediately fought back. American would go on a 15-7 run over the final 3:53 of overtime. Marist struggled to get openings at the basket down the stretch, letting their slim lead dissolve in the extra period.

Sullivan led the way for the Red Foxes, scoring a team-high 23 points on nine-for-16 shooting from the field along with contributing four rebounds and two steals. Wright came alive in the final few minutes of the second half, finishing with 13 points. Jones impacted the game on both ends of the floor, adding 14 points on seven-for-10 shooting, four rebounds and three blocks.

Freshman guard Noah Harris played some important minutes in his first collegiate game, scoring seven points in 18 minutes. The 6-foot-1 freshman guard Jao Ituka showed some flashes in his time on the floor, scoring four points on two-for-four shooting from the field.

Becton Jr. was the standout player for the Eagles, scoring a team-high 18 points on six-for-11 shooting from the field. Senior forward Josh Alexander and sophomore guard Colin Smalls were also in double figures, adding a combined 26 points.

Marist returns to play on November 12th at 7 p.m., when they face the Columbia Lions at the Levien Gymnasium in New York. The Red Foxes are 6-2 against the Lions all-time, including a three-game winning streak that stretched from 2011-2018. Columbia won the last matchup between these teams, earning a 69-54 victory at home back on December 28th, 2019.

Edited by Bridget Reilly

Photo Credit: Marist Athletics

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