A team meeting is almost never a good thing. When Brian Giorgis called one after his team received a 78-49 home thrashing to Columbia on Sunday, it wasn’t to praise his squad.
“We’re shorthanded, but that’s no excuse,” he said. “(Columbia) is what we want to be, and we had a team meeting about that. There were some things in practice too. They know they need to make a better commitment.”
As Columbia pulled away from Marist during the second half, it became painfully clear that the Red Foxes are not in a state to challenge quality competition.
“Columbia did a tremendous job,” the Marist head coach said after the game. “I was worried something like this could happen. They are a seasoned team that was operating on all cylinders.”
The Red Foxes only trailed by six at the half, but the Lions showed why they are one of the nation’s best mid-major schools, outscoring Marist 49-26 in the last 20 minutes.
For the second straight game, the Red Foxes only dressed eight players, with seven of them seeing action. Marist was without senior Kendall Krick and junior Julianna Bonilla, who remained out of the lineup for COVID-related reasons. These absences were added to a long injured list that features sophomore Anabel Ellison, junior Trinasia Kennedy, and senior Sarah Barcello, who all remained out.
It’s not anyone’s fault. If there’s anything to blame, it’s fate. After staying almost completely healthy during last season’s NCAA Tournament run, the injury/COVID-19 bug has hit Marist with vengeance.
“Effort is what we can control,” Giorgis said. “After they went on that run at the end of the third quarter, we kind of packed it in, which was disappointing.”
It’s the first time a Marist team has lost five straight games since the 2017-18 season.
Marist (2-6) came into the game with the nation’s 328th-ranked scoring offense, averaging a lowly 51.4 points per game. It was more of the same as the Red Foxes finished with a 14-for-58 (24 percent) output from the field, their worst of the season. They shot just 20 percent from three and did not move the ball effectively, finishing with five assists, another season-low.
Sophomore Kiara Fisher was Marist’s only double-digit scorer, accounting for 19 of her team’s 49 points. She shot six-of-15 from the floor and six-of-seven from the foul line but gave the ball away five times.
Sophomore Zaria Shazer was held in check, only finishing with six points and three rebounds. She fouled out with 8:12 remaining after letting her frustration boil over and committing a technical foul.
Columbia (8-2) can win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament if they can make it out of the Ivy League. They didn’t shoot particularly well (39 percent) from the floor but made 11-of-35 from three and annihilated Marist on the boards, 58-34. They snagged 19 offensive boards and got 15 second-chance points.
Junior Kaitlyn Davis led the Lions with 18 points and made it a double-double with 11 rebounds. Freshman Kitty Henderson added 12, and the team’s leading scorer for the season, sophomore Abbey Hsu, chipped in with 11.
Marist’s struggles to score early in the game continued against the Lions. The Red Foxes could only muster one field goal in the first quarter, falling behind 17-2 at one point.
Though they shot only 6-for-28 in the first half, Marist scrapped its way back into the conversation, limiting Columbia on offense. Sophomore Emma Wax hit a three to make it 25-17 with five minutes left in the half, and Fisher sunk a layup that brought Marist to within 29-23 at halftime.
Shazer went into the break with one personal foul, but picked up three quick ones in the first two minutes of the second half. With one of their only real scoring threats forced to sit, the Red Foxes again fell into an offensive funk. Marist struggled to take care of the ball, and the Lions began to pull away, this time for good.
Henderson hit a three to extend Columbia’s lead to 39-25 at the 5:30 mark of the third. Hsu, senior Mikayla Markham, and junior Jaida Patrick also joined in on the three-point fun. The Lions led 51-28 after the third, outscoring Marist 22-5 in the third stanza.
The Red Foxes only shot two-for-14 in the third quarter, watching the game fall more and more out of their grasp with every shot that clanked off the rim. The looks of despondence, which Giorgis alluded to, on Marist’s relatively short bench during the Lions’ run said it all: this one was over.
The upcoming schedule doesn’t do the Red Foxes any favors. Up next, Marist will make the trip to Long Island to face another mid-major power in Stony Brook. Giorgis seems resigned that the team’s circumstances won’t improve by Tuesday.
“I’m not worried about Stony Brook,” he said. “We have to be ready for Fairfield on December 18.”
Marist and Stony Brook will tip off on the road on Long Island at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 7.
Edited by Mackenzie Meaney
Photo by Luke Sassa