Execution down the stretch, especially in MAAC play, typically makes the difference between wins and losses. Marist played well enough to win, but the inability to score late in the game took away their chance to get a victory on the road. Rider held on in the end for a 77-71 win, as Marist was forced to walk away from their second straight conference game with a defeat.
“We played with great passion and great togetherness. Tonight was an extremely physical game against one of the more physical teams in the league and we didn’t back down at all,” Marist head coach John Dunne said. “Really proud of the guy’s effort. Just did not make enough plays at the end.”
The first half was played with pace, as both teams searched for good looks at the basket early in the shot clock. That allowed both Marist and Rider to get out in transition, something that each side took advantage of.
Rider guard Allen Bertrand scored a quick six points, including two made free throws. He [Bertrand] hit two mid-range shots, helping the Broncs jump out to an early lead. As the half went on, it looked as if Rider was ready to pull away. Marist was making some poor decisions on both ends, but the Red Foxes were able to hang tough.
With less than four minutes left in the first half, Marist trailed 36-31. Patrick Gardner kept them afloat, as who knows where they would have been without his 11 points. The Red Foxes needed a secondary option to help with the scoring if they wanted to push Rider to their limit.
Isaiah Brickner would score the final basket of the half on a lay-up with two or three Broncs contesting. Rider guard Dwight Murray Jr. pulled up from half-court as time expired, but the shot would not fall. Marist trailed for nearly the entire first half, but they were able to hit enough shots to trail by just six going into the break.
Most of the offense ran through Gardner in the first half, as the 6-foot-11 center was able to get good shots from all over the floor. He [Gardner] was 6-for-13 from the field in the opening twenty minutes, scoring 14 points to keep Marist within striking distance.
Gardner did take quite a few spot up three-pointers, hitting two of those in the first half. The guards were also able to create one on one opportunities for him in the post, which he was able to take advantage of more often than not.
Marist continued to lean on Gardner to begin the second half, and he was able to deliver in a multitude of areas. The Red Foxes opened the scoring on a turnaround jumper from the big man. Over a minute later, Gardner received the ball in the post. Rider sent a second defender to get the ball out of his hands, leaving Kam Farris open at the top of the key. The 6-foot-3 junior knocked the shot down, cutting the deficit to three.
The second half was quite similar to the action shown in the first, as both teams went on runs, one after the other. Rider would take a big lead, but then Marist would string a few baskets together to put the pressure back on the home team.
The offense continued to run through Gardner, but his distribution to his teammates on the perimeter caused problems for Rider. He [Gardner] was able to pass out of the post, finding shooters like Farris and Noah Harris on numerous occasions. As the half winded down, that proved to be a source of offense for the Red Foxes.
Marist trailed by three with just over three minutes left in the game. The team put the ball in the hands of Gardner once again, who began to go to work in the post. He noticed that one of the guards was on the help side, leaving Harris open in the corner. Gardner found the guard with a perfect pass, setting him up for a three-point make to tie it at 66-66.
The Red Foxes had every chance to steal one on the road, but it would not happen. With the game hanging in the balance, Rider leaned on the scoring of Murray Jr., and he certainly delivered. The guard scored five consecutive points to make it a 71-66 game with 01:20 remaining. Marist made things difficult for their leading scorer all night long, but he [Murray Jr.] was still able to knock down his shot in the most crucial moments of the game.
The Red Foxes would make it a one possession game following a made layup from Stephane Ingo, scoring the basket plus the foul. He [Ingo] would miss the free throw, failing to capitalize on the three-point play opportunity. That would be as close as Marist got late, as Rider would make enough free throws in the final minute to hold on for the six-point victory.
Despite the loss, the team was in good spirits after putting in a strong performance. “We always have the mindset to keep our heads up. No matter what is going on, we never feel like we are out of any game,” Noah Harris said postgame.
Patrick Gardner led the way for the Red Foxes on the offensive end, scoring a game-high 21 points on 9-for-20 shooting from the field and 2-for-8 shooting from three. He also had eight rebounds and four assists in 35 minutes.
Kam Farris hit some big shots, scoring 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting from the field and 4-for-8 shooting from three in 27 minutes. “He [Farris] was very good. I thought he had great energy all week. He only played ten minutes in the first half and I started him in the second half Isaiah [Brickner], not because Isaiah played poorly, I just needed to get Kam more minutes,” coach Dunne said. “We need to continue to try to get more out of him.”
Marist is now 4-7 on the season, including two straight losses to begin conference play. The team will get a long break before returning to game action, with their next contest set for Dec. 30 against the Fairfield Stags. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Leo D. Mahoney Arena.
Edited By Dan Aulbach
Photo From Carolo Pascale of the Rider News