Marist women’s basketball is 4-9 through 13 games. Man, that feels weird to say. Not a single player or coach involved in the program is used to losing.
Head coach Brian Giorgis is a 400-game winner twice over, first at the high school level at Our Lady of Lourdes in Poughkeepsie and then at Marist, where his teams have made 11 NCAA Tournament appearances since he took over ahead of the 2002-03 season. Two of his assistant coaches–Erin Doughty and Maggie Gallagher– made multiple tournament appearances playing under Giorgis, and almost every player on the current roster won championships in high school.
So yes, this poor start feels foreign to fans, players, and coaches alike. If Marist had lost to Iona on Dec. 20, it would have meant the worst 10-game start to a season in the Giorgis era. On paper, the record is deceiving. The Red Foxes played a challenging non-conference schedule without their two best returning players, junior guard Trinasia Kennedy and senior guard Sarah Barcello, from last season.
Barcello, the leading scorer from 2020-21, isn’t with the team while Kennedy made her return from off-season surgery in the MAAC opener on Dec. 18 against Fairfield.
Kennedy adds another dimension on both sides of the ball. With her back in the picture, the team should have a chance to hit its stride in the next month-and-a-half of conference play
Here’s what Marist needs to do to improve in the new year.
Execute in Crunch Time
The Red Foxes have already played in a few close contests this season but are only 1-4 in games decided by single digits. Close losses to American, Central Michigan, Lafayette, and Fairfield all could have gone the other way if Marist had played better in the final minutes.
Sometimes, like in the American and Fairfield games, it’s a matter of missing shots when you need to score. In the Lafayette game, a frustrating 53-50 loss, Marist was out-hustled in the final seconds, giving up two offensive rebounds off missed free throws.
With the MAAC looking the deepest it’s been in a few years, the Red Foxes will find themselves in plenty of tight fights over the next few months. With plenty of time for practice, Marist should be working on late-game situations, especially as March inches closer.
Bring Rain, not Drought
Scoring droughts happen in basketball. Over a 40-minute game, the odds are each team goes cold for at least a couple of minutes. The problem for Marist is, when the Red Foxes go cold, it lasts. There have been too many games where they fail to score in the first few minutes. If it’s not at the start of the game, it’s later on. The best example of the Red Foxes’ anemic offense is the Arizona game, where they only managed to score 22 points in the final 30 minutes of action.
Failure to score only puts more pressure on the defense, which has been great this season. A stellar job preventing opponents from scoring will only get you so far if your offense is 332nd in the nation at scoring, averaging just a tick over 52 points per game. If this team can get to 60, it will win. Something that might help with that is…
The three players from the Binghamton, New York area shoulder most of the scoring load. Sophomore guard Kiara Fisher, sophomore forward Zaria Shazer, and Kennedy are the team’s top options on offense. Before Kennedy’s return, Marist was almost too easy to defend. Even though the motion encouraged a widely distributed offense, the odds were that the ball was either sticking with Fisher or going to Shazer in the post.
When there are only two legitimate scoring threats to defend, other teams can take those options and force other players to step up. Kennedy was a welcome sight, but that doesn’t mean that other players have to be relegated to the shadows.
Role players like sophomore guard Anabel Ellison, sophomore guard Emma Wax, junior guard Julianna Bonilla, and even starting junior center Sam Bailey can all make shots. So let’s see a little more balance in the box scores during MAAC play.
Fight the Good Fight on the Boards
When former star freshman Caitlin Weimar left for Boston University, it became clear that Marist wouldn’t have the size it enjoyed last season. Shazer and Bailey are not a very intimidating frontline compared to Weimar and former senior forward Willow Duffell. Through ten games, the Red Foxes are losing the rebounding margin by an average of seven boards per game.
In the Columbia game, Marist lost the rebounding margin resoundingly, 58-34. The same was true with Arizona (53-27). Those are taller teams that the Red Foxes will not see again. Marist ranks third-to-last in the MAAC in rebounding margin, but Manhattan and Quinnipiac are the only teams that really excel at crashing the glass.
If Shazer, Bailey, and the rest of the lineup hold their own on the glass, it takes considerable stress off the defense. Fewer possessions for opposing teams means less defending and more chances to score for the Red Foxes.
It’s important to remember that this is a young team. The Red Foxes only have one senior (Kendall Krick) on the active roster, and Trinasia Kennedy, the squad’s other leader missed the entire non-conference schedule. This is a team full of young players with plenty of potential. If younger players like Siobhan Boylan and Anabel Ellison (just to name a few) continue to come along, Marist will improve by the end of the year.
If the Red Foxes can clean up some of these bad habits, it will be its best self in the new year, and more importantly, once it’s time to make the trip to Atlantic City.
Edited by Bridget Reilly and Connor Kurpat
Image from Marist Athletics