The Marist men’s basketball team took a 83-52 road loss at the Niagara Purple Eagles on Saturday afternoon.
The Red Foxes fell behind midway through the first half, and were unable to make the game competitive in the end. Marist finishes the regular season with consecutive road losses, ending the year with an overall record of 14-15.
Heading into the Western New York two-game road trip, Marist was in prime position to earn a first-round bye in Atlantic City. All the team had to do was earn a win against either the Canisius Golden Griffins or Niagara.
A 78-67 loss at Canisius on Thursday night left all to play for this afternoon. The Red Foxes controlled their destiny, yet were unable to take advantage of that opportunity.
The opening minutes of the contest were back-and-forth. At the U12 media timeout in the first half, the Red Foxes held a 19-15 lead.
Marist showed the ability to match the high energy of the Purple Eagles, who were playing in front of a packed crowd on Senior Day. But as the first half went on, Niagara began to pull away.
With the score at 21-15 in favor of the Red Foxes, Marcus Hammond began to get comfortable for the home team. The guard connected on two straight three-pointers, tying the game at 21 apiece. Noah Thomasson would then go on to make a free throw to give Niagara a one-point advantage, a lead they would fail to surrender for the rest of the contest.
Niagara finished the half on a 17-8 run over the final nine minutes and changed, taking a ten-point lead heading into the break. To that point, the Purple Eagles were finding excellent looks on the offensive end, shooting 59.1 percent from the field in the opening twenty minutes.
Marist head coach John Dunne was looking for a response from his team to begin the second half. A shift in momentum for the Red Foxes could flip the game, but that run never came in the end.
By the 13:57 mark, Niagara held a 55-33 lead following a layup from Sam Iorio. Marist came out of the locker room with a lack of energy, and it was really beginning the show on the scoreboard.
The remainder of the second half was filled by the Purple Eagles continuity to grow their lead, little by little. A three-point make from Julian Mackey at the 02:54 mark gave Niagara a 37 point advantage, their largest lead of the afternoon. Marist ended the game on a 8-2 run, making the final result a 31 point loss for the Red Foxes.
Niagara head coach Greg Paulus got important contributions from a lot of his players, but none performed at a higher level than Thomasson. The 6-foot-3 guard had a career-high 27 points on 11-for-14 shooting from the field and two-for-three shooting from beyond the arc.
Marcus Hammond played a critical role in the victory for the Purple Eagles as well. The second-leading scorer in conference at 18.1 points per game finished 21 points on eight-for-16 shooting from the field and four-for-nine shooting from three-point range in 35 minutes of action.
Jordan Cintron was the other Purple Eagle who scored in double figures, contributing with 13 points on three-for-four shooting from the field and seven-for-eight shooting from the charity stripe.
From an offensive point of view, Marist was really unable to get anything going. Still, Jao Ituka was able to finish the game as the only Red Fox in double figures. The freshman guard had a team-high 19 points on six-for-13 shooting from the field and six-for-six shooting from the charity stripe.
Ituka finished the regular season averaging 15.5 points per game on 52.9 percent shooting from the field, scoring at least 15 points in 15 out of the 27 games he played in.
Marist returns to play on Mar. 8 at 9 p.m., when they begin their run in the MAAC Men’s Basketball Championships. The six-seeded Red Foxes have yet to find out who they will play in that contest. They will either face the Rider Broncs or the Canisius Golden Griffins.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Marist Athletics