As the home team, it’s never good when the bouncing of the ball and cheers from the other bench is all you hear in your arena. But that was exactly the situation for Marist women’s basketball on Thursday night, as Fairfield pulled away for a commanding 59-39 victory at the McCann Center.
“It was obviously a tough shooting game for us,” Marist head coach Brian Giorgis said after the game. “Unfortunately for us, we’ve had too many of those games. We get good shots, but we can’t knock them down. The sad part is that I’ve never had a team that comes in more to shoot.”
Earlier on Thursday, Marist starting point guard Kiara Fisher announced in an Instagram post that she was out for the season with a shoulder injury. Center Field later confirmed with the Marist athletic department.
Without their leading scorer and distributor, the Red Foxes faced even more of an uphill battle against MAAC-leading Fairfield. The matchup between the Stags and Red Foxes had become one of the conference’s top rivalries on the women’s side, with the teams splitting their six meetings since the beginning of the 2019-20 season.
This one was more of a drubbing and less of a heated battle between two of the most consistent programs in the MAAC.
Playing 2-15 Canisius and first-place Fairfield without your best player are two completely different animals. Against a team that plays primarily zone like the Stags, Fisher’s ability to penetrate and create was sorely missed. There were times when Marist looked lost against the rangy Fairfield defense, and others when the Red Foxes had the looks but failed to execute.
Lou Lopez-Senechal is a name that Marist fans undoubtedly know by now. She’s a perennial all-MAAC player that can score in bunches. Coming into Thursday night, she was averaging 20.4 points per game, but in the last eight contests, she took her game to a different level, going over 20 each time.
She just barely extended that streak to nine games with a game-high 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting. Andrea Hernangomez added an efficient 16 for Fairfield (12-6, 9-1 in the MAAC).
“That’s a very veteran team led by the best player in the conference,” Giorgis said of Fairfield and Lopez-Senechal. “Defensively, we did some good things, but Lou’s gonna do what Lou’s gonna do and Hernangomez loves playing against us. We just have trouble scoring the basketball.”
Marist (6-11, 4-5 in the MAAC) shot 15-of-53 (28 percent) from the floor and 7-of-29 from three, as they had to settle outside looks against the lengthy Stags. Zaria Shazer had a team-high 11 points and added nine boards.
The best way to describe the Stags was like an occupying force. They came into enemy territory with an objective and did what they were supposed to do with a grim determination. It wasn’t dissimilar to how Marist played on the road over the last two years, patiently sustaining whatever the opposing team threw at them before going in for the kill.
Fairfield led from the tip, extending its advantage into double-figures with a three from Janelle Brown that made it 27-15 at the 4:17 mark of the second quarter. Scoring from Lopez-Senechal and Cavanaugh helped the Stags make it 33-19 at halftime.
If there was ever hope for Marist, it shone brightest in the early third quarter. An 8-0 run that included a banked-in three from Anabel Ellison cut it to 33-27 and forced a Fairfield timeout. With the game’s momentum in the balance, the Stags restored order, with Lopez-Senechal burying a triple to make it 40-27 just a few minutes later.
Marist only scored 12 more points after the 7:38 mark of the third quarter. Fairfield executed like a well-oiled machine and continued to pull away, leading 46-32 after the third. The Stags issued the knockout blow in the early minutes of the fourth. Threes from Lopez-Senechal and Hernangomez were part of a 10-0 run that made it 56-32 and effectively ended the game.
“I can’t complain about our effort in the second half,” Giorgis said. “We came out like gangbusters, but then we were our own worst enemies, turning the ball over twice, and all of a sudden, that six-point lead got up to 13.”
The last six minutes were essentially garbage time. The Red Foxes shot just 25 percent from the field in the second half and saw themselves held under 40 points for the second time this season.
Like the Canisius game on Monday, Anabel Ellison assumed starting point guard duties for the Red Foxes and scored six points. Though losing Fisher was a crushing blow, Emma Wax made her first appearance since Jan. 8 and had five in her return from injury.
Before the season, Fairfield coach Joe Frager announced that he would be retiring at the end of 2021-22 due to health reasons. Giorgis and Marist athletic director Tim Murray presented Frager with a commemorative plaque a few minutes ahead of tip-off.
In his final season, Frager just might get that elusive MAAC title.
Marist will travel to Saint Peter’s for a Saturday afternoon game in Jersey City. The Red Foxes will depart tomorrow to avoid the impending snowstorm. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Edited by Connor Kurpat
Photo from Marist Athletics