Coming back from a trip abroad and the Thanksgiving holiday, Marist women’s basketball overcame a tepid start from the floor in a 52-42 defeat of Lafayette on Sunday afternoon at the McCann Center.
It’s the first three-game winning streak for the Red Foxes since they advanced through the MAAC Tournament in 2021.
“It was a good, solid win for us,” Marist head coach Brian Giorgis said. “We didn’t play one of our better games and we didn’t have a good shooting game but we had enough people step up.”
After offensive struggles from last season spilled over into the first few games of 2022-23, the Red Foxes appeared to find their groove in Ireland but had a difficult time translating that to stateside success for most of Sunday.
Marist (3-3) shot just 30 percent from the floor and just 2-for-11 from three but ground out the victory thanks to a combination of suffocating defense and bad Leopards offense.
The Leopards shot just 26 percent from the floor, 4-for-27 from three, and gave the ball away 23 times, contributing to 15 Marist points.
“Our defense has to be a constant because you don’t have bad days defensively,” Giorgis said. “It’s a lot of understanding what we’re doing, a lot of communicating, and a lot of heart and hustle.”
The game looked bound to be a grind with neither team averaging better than 55 points per game or shooting the ball better than 36 percent from the floor.
Marist made just two of its first 12 shots to begin the game and was shooting just 26 percent at half. Luckily for Giorgis’s squad, Lafayette was another offensively-challenged team and the Red Foxes actually went into the break on top.
Marist made a more energetic start to the second half with Donnelly establishing herself with two mid-range jumpers and a layup as part of an 8-0 run to push the lead to 33-24 with just under seven minutes left in the third.
The Red Foxes couldn’t quite find the separation they wanted, but the Lafayette offense wasn’t threatening to make a dent in the deficit and Marist took a 41-33 lead into the fourth.
It took until the fourth quarter for Marist’s starting point guard Kiara Fisher to connect from the floor, but she converted a crucial three-point play to put her team up 46-35 with just under six minutes left.
The Leopards cut it to 46-40 with just under five minutes left after Halee Smith banked in a triple. As the teams were jogging back down the court, Lafayette’s Jessica Booth incurred a technical foul but Zaria Shazer failed to make the resulting free throws.
Marist couldn’t find a dagger on offense, but it continued to get stops and force turnovers on the defensive end. A layup from freshman guard Jackie Piddock made it 48-40 with 3:34 left and the game remained scoreless until she stepped to the free-throw line with under a minute left and split a pair to make it a nine-point cushion.
Lafayette’s leading scorer Makayla Andrews battled foul trouble but still managed to post a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Even if it wasn’t the prettiest, Sunday proved to be Marist’s most balanced offensive performance of the season.
Freshman point guard Jackie Piddock put in some solid performances in Dublin but had the best game of her young career, finishing with a team-high 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting and adding five rebounds.
Her nine first-half points were the reason Marist found itself 25-24 at the halftime break.
“It’s important just to contribute as much as we can,” Piddock said. “Just to help out in whatever way possible and I think that comes from the team atmosphere that we’ve created where everyone is ready to step up and help.”
Shazer struggled mightily finishing with eight points with just three made shots in 18 attempts. She did add 14 rebounds but could not convert anywhere near her normal rate in the paint.
Donnelly was another player outside Marist’s big three to make a solid contribution. She finished with nine and it could’ve been more if she hadn’t missed 4-of-5 shots from the charity stripe.
“It was really encouraging to see Jackie Piddock and Maeve Donnelly step up,” Giorgis said. “They really did a great job stepping up and filling in and providing us with a spark.”
Fisher and Kendall Krick had five and eight points respectively, combining to shoot 4-for-19 on the day.
During halftime, the school unveiled its POW/MIA Chair of Honor commemorating prisoners of war and those who never returned as part of their service to the United States Armed Forces. The chair is located in Section 115, near the fan entrance to the McCann Center.
Marist returns to action on Dec. 1 when it faces a stiff mid-major test at Columbia. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Marist Athletics