In the most-anticipated Marist women’s basketball season opener in recent memory, the Red Foxes fell to Villanova 60-38 inside a packed McCann Center on Monday.
Marist led after the first quarter but succumbed to many of the same problems that haunted the team last year, going on prolonged offensive droughts and squarely losing the battle down low against a bigger, more talented team.
The Red Foxes could only muster nine second-half points and shot just 3-for-24 (13 percent) from the floor in the final 20 minutes.
“We started out really well but it was just a rough second half,” Marist head coach Brian Giorgis said. “You have to give Villanova credit, they’re a good team but we just couldn’t execute, especially when it came to rebounding.”
The biggest storyline coming into the game was one of the visiting players, Maddy Siegrist, who played her high school basketball at Our Lady of Lourdes, a 15-minute drive away from the Marist campus.
Siegrist also happens to be one of the best players in the country, coming off a redshirt junior season that saw her average better than 25 points and nine rebounds per game. Marist’s defensive game plan centered around stopping its former prized recruit. Siegrist struggled initially, but her size and physicality overpowered the Red Foxes as the Big East preseason player of the year plodded her way to a 21-point, 13-rebound double-double.
“I thought we did a great job on Maddy Siegrist,” Giorgis said. “We did exactly what we wanted as far making it tough for her to score, and again she’s a great player, but we held them from three, but we just kept giving up second and third-chance opportunities.”
The Wildcats were too physical across the board and commanded the rebounding battle 54-34 and outscored Marist 32-14 in the paint. Villanova had commanding advantages in second-chance points (15-0) and fast break points (14-0).
Against a power conference team like the Wildcats, these problems were expected and it is worth following how Marist performs in the paint against teams closer to its weight class.
Junior forward Zaria Shazer drew the unenviable task of guarding Siegrist and proved to be the bigger scoring threat in the early minutes. While Siegrist would soon catch up, the Elmira native paced the Red Foxes with 18 points on 8-of-19 shooting.
“We didn’t go into (the game) with any fear,” Shazer said. “(Siegrist) is a great player and she was to be respected and we did our best as a team and we had a good mindset but we just weren’t able to execute.”
In her first game since Jan. 22, junior point guard Kiara Fisher promptly drained a three-pointer to open the scoring. She added another moments later but ran into foul trouble, picking up her second personal with six minutes left in the first half.
She quickly cooled after the hot start, growing frustrated with the lack of offensive momentum the Red Foxes failed to create. After scoring eight points in the first ten minutes, she only finished the night with 11.
Kendall Krick, back for her fifth year after taking on more of a scoring role toward the end of last season, made just 1-of-13 from the floor with four of her shots getting blocked. She ended the night with five points.
Seniors Julianna Bonilla and Maeve Donnelly were the new insertions into Marist’s starting lineup with Fisher, Krick, and Shazer holding their spots from last season. Giorgis employed a nine-player rotation, with freshmen Jackie Piddock and Morgan Tompkins thrust into the fire for significant minutes.
Marist shot 25 percent from the floor and was a mere 3-of-14 from long range. The Red Foxes struggled to secure the ball with 18 turnovers and just one field goal in the final quarter.
Christina Dalce was the other Villanova player in double-figures, finishing with 13 points and bringing in a whopping 17 boards. The Wildcats only shot 3-for-22 from the arc but repeated second-chance opportunities and defensive stops gave them all the cushion they needed.
After Shazer scored to make it a 19-15 Marist lead early in the second, the Wildcats responded with Siegrist off the floor. The visitors pushed the tempo and reeled off a 9-0 run to take a 24-19 lead with just over seven minutes left in the half.
A couple of tireless putbacks from Siegrist kept the Wildcats in front by multiple possessions, followed by a floater the scoring leader banked in to make it 37-29 heading into the half.
The Wildcats continued to emphasize the inside game, increasing the lead to 43-31 early in the third quarter. After the quick start to the game, Marist’s offense was mired in a funk, too dependent on Shazer for scoring.
The Red Foxes struggled for just four points in the third quarter as the visitors built a 49-33 advantage with just 10 minutes remaining. Marist shot just 2-for-10 in the third quarter and turned the ball over seven times.
Neither team could do much on offense to open the fourth quarter. The Wildcats struggled to effectively put the Red Foxes away, but Marist also failed to generate anything resembling a comeback.
A Siegrist layup off a press break served as the real dagger, putting Villanova up 54-38 with 4:24 left in the game.
Giorgis and company can take a competitive first half against a top-25 caliber team as the biggest positive from Monday night.
The Red Foxes will learn more about themselves in their two other games this week. They host the University of Pennsylvania on Thursday night before traveling to Wisconsin to take on Green Bay on Saturday afternoon.
Edited by Dan Aulbach
Photo Credit: Kira Crutcher