Marist women’s basketball turned in a complete effort against Iona on Monday night in the McCann Center, dispatching the Gaels 61-49 to break a six-game schneid.
A loss would have meant a seven-game losing streak, and the first 0-2 start in the MAAC since the 2004-05 season. A 2-8 start would have been Marist’s worst in Giorgis’s tenure. Luckily for the Red Foxes, the game marked a potential turning point instead of a deeper descent into darkness.
Coming into the game, the teams shared a few early-season similarities. Both Marist and Iona hadn’t won a game since the middle of November, and each team endured a COVID pause. The Gaels went 25 days without playing before finally resuming on Saturday against Monmouth. Even though they looked similar on paper, the Red Foxes soundly established themselves as the better team on the court.
The Red Foxes had their best offensive showing since the third game of the season against Vermont. Marist (3-7, 1-1 in the MAAC) shot 44 percent from the field and five-of-11 from three, effectively moving the ball and finishing with 14 assists after struggling against Fairfield.
The efficient ball movement led to a more balanced effort. Five Red Foxes finished with seven or more points on Monday night, and eight of the nine players who saw action scored.
Kiara Fisher starred as a scorer, distributor and pickpocket, finishing with team-highs in points (17), assists (six), and steals (four). She only turned the ball over twice, and shot six-of-seven from the foul line. Most strikingly, she finished with a plus-minus of 21.
Trinasia Kennedy reached double-digits for the second time in as many attempts, scoring 10 on four-of-nine shooting from the field. Marist has been a different team since her return on Saturday.
Zaria Shazer had eight points and seven rebounds, and Julianna Bonilla and Sam Bailey each scored seven.
In the game before Christmas, Iona gave Marist gift after gift, turning the ball over a staggering 23 times. The Gaels had 15 turnovers in the first half and only surpassed that total in points when Shyan Mwai tossed in a buzzer-beating jumper to make it 29-17 Marist at the halftime break.
Iona shot 40 percent overall and eight-of-25 from beyond the arc. For much of the night, they employed a five-guard look, enabling Marist to win the rebounding battle 34-25.
Shyan Mwai paced the Gaels with 12 points, while Olivia Vezaldenos added 11.
The Red Foxes held Iona’s leading scorer, Juana Camilion, in check. She finished with seven points on three-of-11 shooting.
The home team jumped out to an 11-2 start in the first five-and-a-half minutes but didn’t score again until Emma Wax heaved in a 40-footer at the buzzer to give Marist a 14-7 lead after 10 minutes.
Marist started to get some separation near the end of the first half as Fisher swished a three and converted a layup to make it 29-12 with just under four minutes left in the second quarter. The Red Foxes did not score again in the half but still took a 12-point advantage into the break.
The teams swapped threes to start the second half, but a quick 6-0 run, spearheaded by Kennedy and Shazer, made it 41-23 in favor of the home team. The Gaels were forced to take a timeout with just under six minutes left in the third. Julianna Bonilla hit a three to stretch the lead to 21 points late in the third, and the Red Foxes took a 48-29 lead into the fourth.
Vezaldenos drained a three to bring Iona the score to 50-36 with seven minutes left to play, but Marist responded with six of the next seven points to effectively put the game out of reach.
The Red Foxes will get to enjoy their Christmas and won’t play again until December 30, when they host Canisius at 7 p.m.
Edited by Connor Kurpat
Image from Marist Athletics