Second-Half Comeback Falls Through in Loss to Princeton

Despite looking to snap their two game losing streak, Marist men’s basketball would trail by as many as 20 against Princeton, and lost 62-55 on Saturday night. 

Coming off a tough loss at Lehigh on Wednesday, the Red Foxes wanted to have a strong start against the Princeton Tigers. Marist was unable to do that, and even though they outplayed the Tigers throughout most of the second half, they were never able to fully overcome the deficit. 

“It felt like two different games, first half versus second half. Low energy in the first half, not a lot of ball movement and we didn’t have any spirit,” Marist head coach John Dunne said about what went wrong in the opening 20 minutes. 

The Tigers scored the first eight points of the game, hitting two three-pointers in the process and forcing coach Dunne to call an early timeout. Princeton was able to get whatever they wanted on offense in the opening exchanges, with many of their shots coming as clean looks. Before they knew it, the Red Foxes were down 18-2 less than six minutes into the game.

Princeton got off to a good start because of their constant ball movement on the offensive end, but their defensive game plan against Patrick Gardner played a key role in their strong opening. The 6-foot–11 center had trouble finding his feet because of the duress the Tigers put on him.

As soon as Gardner received the ball in the post, Princeton sent a second defender to double the big. It did not always result in a turnover, but Marist struggled to generate offense with Gardner occupying two Tigers. 

The constant pressure put Gardner in difficult positions, helping Princeton draw a charge on the Marist center. With 12:16 left in the first half, Gardner got the ball in the post and spun left to attack the rim. Gardner extended his elbow, knocking a defender down to pick up an early second foul.  

“We knew they were going to double. Our plan was to have him [Gardner] catch off the block to give him some room,” coach Dunne said. “Get a cutter on the weak side, lift up the corner and get the skips, which was actually got some of those. I thought we got fairly good looks and a couple of decent advantages.”

The Red Foxes got some offense brewing late in the first half, but their struggles on the defensive end allowed Princeton to retain a comfortable lead. Marist forward Javon Cooley hit a three-pointer from top of the key with just seconds left in the first, cutting the deficit to 36-19 going into halftime. 

It was a totally different story in terms of intensity and attention to detail on both ends for Marist in the second half. The Red Foxes were able to slow their offense down, showing more patience and as a result, creating good looks for themselves. Defensively, all five players on the floor stayed attached to their man, forcing Princeton to take contested shots. 

Slowly but surely, the lead for the Tigers began to shrink. The momentum began to swing in favor of Marist, the crowd propelled the home team in their strong push to close the gap. With 08:31 remaining in the second half, the Red Foxes trailed 47-35. But surprisingly, a 9-0 run erupted from Marist, all scored by Patrick Gardner and Noah Harris, putting the game within reach.

Marist was on the brink of taking the lead, but two off-balanced threes from Princeton guard Matt Allocco quieted the crowd and gave the Tigers a lift they so desperately needed. Still, it felt like the Red Foxes were within touching distance. 

The most emphatic play of the night came on a drive from Marist guard Isaiah Brickner. With the Red Foxes trailing 53-49, the freshman got downhill against his defender. Brickner got up and threw the ball into the net, flexing on the way down in pure elation. That not only got the bench up, but the crowd instantly had life in the late game. Once again, it was a one-possession game with just minutes remaining. 

From that point on, Princeton finished the game off, mostly from the free throw line. Marist did everything they could to fight back, but came up short. The Tigers finished the game on a 9-4 run over the final three plus minutes, giving Princrton a seven-point victory. 

Isaiah Brickner showed a lot of potential on both ends against Princeton, despite the woes on the stat sheet. The freshman had seven points on 3-for-8 shooting from the field in a season-high 27 minutes. Brickner put forth a major effort on the defensive end as well, grabbing five rebounds. 

“You ask anybody on the team, I’ve been the hardest on Isaiah. I’ve coached him the hardest and he knows that I don’t make any secrets about that because he can take it,” coach Dunne said. He grew up tonight, and he’ll get better and better.”

The loss to Princeton leaves the team with a 1-3 record in non-conference play. Marist will be back on the road to face the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks of the MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) on Tuesday, Nov. 19th. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Hytche Athletic Center.

Edited By Dan Aulbach

Photo from Marist Athletics

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