The Marist men’s basketball team earned a 62-53 victory against the Siena Saints on Friday night. Tonight’s victory means the team has won on the road at Siena for the first time since 2013. Marist now holds a 7-9 record in MAAC play this season, which ranks sixth in the conference.
Marist was able to get off to a strong start on the road. But as the first half went on, Siena started to gain more control over the contest.
At the 12:49 mark in the first half, Marist held a 12-5 lead. Jao Ituka had a quick eight points as the Red Foxes looked to settle into the game.
But just as it looked like Marist was going to control the tempo, the intensity from the Saints quickly grew. The Red Foxes began to commit unforced turnovers, leading to Siena getting out in transition.
Siena took a 31-24 lead following a made-three pointer from Michael Baer. Anthony Gaines was up to 12 points and all the momentum was in favor of the Saints. Each team was able add three points over the final four minutes of the half.
With seconds winding down in the first, Siena was given one final opportunity to extend their advantage. Javian McCollum sprinted towards the floor as he looked to get a shot up before the buzzer sounded.
As he began to pull up from beyond the three-point line, he was fouled on the way up by Ricardo Wright. The Saints guard connected on two of the three free throws, giving Siena a seven-point lead at the break.
The Red Foxes struggled for a majority of the first half. Marist committed eight turnovers in the opening twenty minutes, which turned into seven points for Siena. Still, Marist found themselves within touching distance, thanks to 15 first-half points from Ituka.
Pace of play picked up to begin the second half. Both teams looked to get out and run in transition, leading to far more possessions. This style of play benefitted Marist, as the team was able to slowly close the gap. At the U12 media timeout, the Red Foxes trailed by just five at 48-43.
Marist had their game-changing run midway through the second half. A dunk from Victor Enoh that came off a dump off pass from Wright tied the game at 48 apiece. The Red Foxes took the lead a minute later following two-made free throws from the sophomore guard.
The game began to open up for Marist as soon as the shots started falling for Wright. All of a sudden, head coach John Dunne had two guards who could get downhill at any given moment.
Being able to lean on their two-leading scores in the final minutes was all the Red Foxes needed in order to close things out. A made-three pointer from Anthony Gaines cut the deficit to five with 01:48 left to play.
The Red Foxes finished the game off at the free throw line. Marist added four points from the charity stripe, giving the team a nine-point victory on the road.
What the Red Foxes were able to do on the defensive end in the second half provided to be one of the biggest keys in their comeback. Siena scored just 19 points following halftime, shooting 29.6 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from three-point range over the final twenty minutes.
Domination on the boards was critical in Marist finding a way to win against Siena. The Red Foxes were +17 in that category, as the team was able to secure 15 offensive rebounds. Marist constantly looked for second chance opportunities around the rim, and were successful on many different occasions.
Just as he has done all season long, Ituka was able to use his strength and quickness to make matters difficult for the Saints. The six-time MAAC Rookie of the Week recipient had a game-high 23 points. While he did struggle shooting from the field (six-for-19), Ituka was able to go ten-for-12 from the free throw line along with contributing eight rebounds and three steals.
A big second half from Wright completely changed the game for Marist. After going scoreless in the opening twenty minutes, the 6-foot-4 sophomore had 15 second-half points.
Victor Enoh was an unsung hero for the Red Foxes against Siena. While the stats may not be eye-popping, his impact on both ends of the floor was pivotal in the team’s victory. The 6-foot-7 center had seven points on three-for-four shooting from the field and ten rebounds, with six of those coming on the offensive end.
Marist returns to play on Feb. 20 at 2 p.m., when they face the Quinnipiac Bobcats at McCann Arena. The Bobcats earned a 94-87 victory at home when these teams faced off earlier this season on Jan. 28, 2022.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Marist Athletics