The Marist men’s basketball team suffered a 69-66 loss at home against the Fairfield Stags on Sunday afternoon. This loss means that the Red Foxes earned a season split with the Stags. Marist now has a 3-5 record in conference play on the season.
Before tipoff, the team announced that head coach John Dunne was unavailable due to being in COVID-19 protocols. Assistant coach Kevin Driscoll was set to act as head coach in his place against the Stags.
“It was a hard-fought battle. We knew they were going to come in and give us their best fight,” coach Driscoll said.
After holding two separate leads in the opening minutes of the first, Marist began to fall behind. Taj Benning connected on three shots from beyond the arc, giving Fairfield a major boost on the offensive end.
The deficit began to grow gradually for the Red Foxes throughout the half. A three-pointer from Zach Crisler gave the Stags a 31-20 lead with less than six minutes remaining in the first. As they have shown countless times this season, Marist was able to fight back in the final stretch of the half.
The Red Foxes trailed by as many as 11 points in the opening half, but an 11-5 run over the final five minutes cut the deficit to five going into the break. Wright led all scores with 15 points at the half.
Over the first few minutes of the second half, Marist began to chip away at the Fairfield lead. A layup from Jao Ituka finished off a 6-0 run that made it a 43-42 game in favor of the Stags with more than 14 minutes remaining.
Whenever it seemed like the Red Foxes were going to get over the hump, Fairfield got a much needed basket. The team would trade baskets over the next five minutes and change, as the score stood at 59-56 with less than eight minutes left.
With just over three minutes left, Marist regained the lead following two made free throws from Wright. The energy in McCann began to grow as the Red Foxes held a 64-63 advantage.
It seemed like Marist had gained some momentum, until Jake Wojcik was fouled on a three-point attempt. The Fairfield guard made two of three, giving the Stags a 65-64 lead with just under two minutes remaining.
A basket from Matt Herasme followed by a layup from Jesus Cruz gave the road team a 67-66 lead with 62 seconds left.
A fadeaway jumper from Cruz gave Fairfield a 69-66 lead with ten seconds remaining. On the ensuing possession, the Red Foxes drew up a play to give themselves an opportunity to send the game to overtime.
Noah Harris dribbled the ball up the right side of the floor as Wright looked to create some space for himself. The sophomore guard freed himself at the top of key, giving him an open look. With the seconds winding down, the shot looked good. The ball began to go in, but rimmed out as time expired.
“I thought it was good coming off. It frustrated me because I wanted to go into overtime,” Wright said about the last-second shot.
Wright showed up in a big way for the Red Foxes against Fairfield. The 6-foot-4 guard had a game-high 19 points on seven-for-16 shooting from the field, including 15 points in the first half.
Samkelo Cele had an excellent game for Marist as well. The 6-foot-5 senior had 16 points on five-for-11 shooting from the field and five-for-shooting from the charity stripe.
Fairfield had three players finish in double figures, including Wojcik, who had a team-high 17 points on six-for-14 shooting from the field and three-for-eight shooting from beyond the arc in 38 minutes.
Benning had 16 points on six-for-12 shooting from the field and four-for-seven shooting from long distance, including 12 in the first half. Supreme Cook added 13 points on five-for-nine shooting from the field and nine rebounds in 27 minutes.
Marist returns to play on Jan. 26 at 7 p.m., when they face the Saint Peter’s Peacocks at McCann Arena in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. The Red Foxes earned a 51-50 road victory when these teams last faced off on Feb. 20, 2021.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Luke Sassa