Marist men’s basketball fell short in their second straight loss at home, losing 69-62 to the St. Peter’s Peacocks on Wednesday night. It was the fourth loss in the last five games for the Red Foxes, with each contest coming at home.
Costly fouls, late turnovers, and an inability to make the three-point shot were all contributions that caused the Red Foxes to lose their chances at a win against a tough MAAC opponent in St. Peter’s.
“When you shoot 4-for-27 on threes when a lot of them were good looks, it’s going to be really hard to win,” said Marist coach John Dunne. “We played hard, but we didn’t make enough shots.”
In contrast, the Peacocks always seemed to make shots when they needed and finished 9-of-20 from beyond the arc. They also outshot Marist 26-8 from the foul line and made some key front ends of one-and-ones down the stretch.
Hassan Drame had a game-high 18 for the Peacocks (8-7, 6-2 in the MAAC) and made all seven of his free throws. Daryl Banks III was the other leading St. Peter’s scorer with 16 points on 3-of-4 shooting from deep.
In the first half, Marist’s stellar defense kept them within distance, recording four blocks against a St. Peter’s team that featured last season’s national leader in rejections (KC Ndefo). The Red Foxes trailed 10-2 in the early minutes but clawed back to take a slim advantage into the locker room.
Although Marist went into the second half with a 34-31 lead and grabbed a six-point lead in the first moments of the latter half, St. Peter’s did not fall back for long. The nine lead changes in the game kept the pressure on for the Red Foxes defense, and five Marist turnovers in the second half alone switched the momentum for the Peacocks in the final minutes.
The ever-dependable Jordan Jones tied the game at 59 with a layup with 2:08 remaining, but Drame had the response at the other end to put his team up two a little over 20 seconds later. The Red Foxes could not make shots when they needed and found themselves trailing 65-59 after a couple of botched possessions.
Noah Harris hit a desperation three to make it 65-62 with 29 seconds left, but the Peacocks, a normally shaky foul-shooting team, held their nerve down the stretch.
“We do some good things for 30 to 33 minutes,” said Dunne, back from sitting out Sunday’s game due to COVID-19 protocols. “We’re not there with the [full] 40 yet. “If we want to get to where we want to get to, we need to learn how to put a full game together.”
Five-time MAAC rookie of the week Jao Ituka, racked up 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting for Marist (8-10, 3-6 in the MAAC). Senior forward Samkelo Cele tied Ituka with 15 points on the day and no turnovers; his offensive efforts included two dunks that were clear momentum changes in the close contest.
Harris, the rookie three-point marksman was the only Red Fox who seemed able to knock down shots, shooting 3-of-6 from long range and finishing with 11 points.
Notably, the Peacocks shut down Ricardo Wright offensively. The sophomore shot just 1-of-11 on the night and missed some crucial looks down the stretch. Wright was coming off of a 19-point effort against Fairfield and wasn’t able to repeat success tonight.
St. Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway made comments after the game that one of their biggest contributions to the win was the ability to shut down Wright.
Throughout the game, St. Peter’s set the tempo with incredible three-point efficiency, making 45 percent of its attempts. To make matters worse, Marist fouled on two three-point chances for the visiting team. Each time allowed the Peacocks to cut into Marist’s tenuous lead.
“You can’t [afford] to foul three-point shooters, [there were] two late in the half and then we left their best shooter wide open,” said Dunne.
Marist fouled three three-point shooters over the 40 minutes, and the Peacocks made six of the nine resulting freebies. It was a crucial difference in a close game.
The errors that Marist made in crucial moments of the 2nd half were the biggest blow to the home team. Dunne believes that making more shots will make the rhythm of their game plan into place.
“St. Peter’s had a lot more games in the last two weeks than we had, and they went 9-for-20 [from three],” said Dunne. “ We just got to make some shots. If we do that, we’ll feel good and then the defense will get even better.”
After an unfortunate loss to St. Peters, the Red Foxes will look to eliminate the costly efforts that left them empty-handed as they hit the road to play Quinnipiac for the first time this season. Tip-off from Hamden is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane
Photo from Luke Sassa