It’s been a mixed bag of results for Marist women’s basketball so far in the 2022-23 season. The Red Foxes faced a challenging schedule, including matchups against a top-25 Villanova team and several talented mid-major squads like Columbia, Green Bay, and Vermont.
The highlight of the early part of the season was a three-game winning streak, including wins over Eastern Kentucky and North Florida at the MAAC/ASUN Challenge in Dublin. A 5-6 record after 11 games feels about right for this team, and despite heavy losses at Columbia and Vermont, and, more recently, a missed opportunity at Canisius, this year’s edition of the Red Foxes have shown some improvement over last year’s team.
There are still some uncertainties surrounding Marist as the calendar turns to 2023. Let’s look at some of the questions Marist needs to answer as the MAAC season gets further underway.
Can the Offense Take More of a Step up?
Marist’s offensive numbers are better than last season, just not by very much. So far in 2022-23, the Red Foxes are putting up 56.7 points per game and shooting 37 percent from the floor and 28 percent from three– all marginal improvements from 2021-22.
The team flashed potential during the Dublin trip when it shot over 40 percent from the floor in both games and dished out 37 assists on 48 made shots. Marist hoped to build on those performances abroad, but it hasn’t been able to recapture that same ball movement and smooth operation of the motion offense.
The Red Foxes haven’t been overly reliant on the three-point shot this season, only eclipsing 20 attempts from beyond the arc once. Games against Penn, Eastern Kentucky, and Niagara saw Marist combine to make 25 threes. But the issue is that the Red Foxes have combined for just 23 threes in their eight other matchups.
With Niagara as an exception, MAAC games usually aren’t track-meets and don’t tend to be very high-scoring. For Marist, it’s more about being efficient and moving the ball. If the Red Foxes can avoid stagnating, create open looks, and capitalize in transition, they’ll have a chance against anyone.
Then again, that’s easier said than done.
Will Anyone Outside the Big Three Become More of a Contributor?
If you’ve followed this team so far this season, you’ll know that Zaria Shazer, Kiara Fisher, and Kendall Krick score the bulk of Marist’s points.
The three are the only Red Foxes averaging double-figures on the scoresheet, and they’ve combined to score about two-thirds of Marist’s total points in non-conference play.
After Krick, the team’s third-leading scorer at 10.7 points per game, there is a precipitous dropoff. Julianna Bonilla is the fourth top-scorer at 5.3 points per game.
Bonilla showed she could be a viable option on the Buffalo trip, scoring 15 crucial points in the win against Niagara and backing that up with nine against Canisius. If she can find her shooting touch on a more consistent basis, she has the potential to become a true contributor.
Jackie Piddock has also exhibited promise in her freshman year, but outside of a 12-point performance against Lafayette, she’s taken more of a distributor role. The freshman is one of the first players off the bench, and her penchant for scoring is well-known in New York. After all, she does hold the Section III all-time scoring record. If she can become a bit more aggressive, it would be a tremendous boost to a second unit that collectively averages about 10 points per game.
Fisher, Shazer, and Krick have all been playing well this season but it isn’t sustainable if they are the only three scoring threats on the floor. Marist has to find other players who can handle some of the scoring burden, which will make the team more difficult to defend.
Can the Defense Stay Consistent?
This wouldn’t have been a question about a month ago, but then the Red Foxes surrendered 103 points at Columbia and 81 to Vermont a few days after. Marist gave up a combined 27 threes and allowed both teams to shoot well over 50 percent from the floor in two uncharacteristic defensive showings.
To be fair, Columbia is ranked second in the current Collegeinsider mid-major poll, and Vermont, under former Marist point guard and assistant coach Alisa Kresge, should contend for the America East title. Still, the lack of defensive intensity and late rotations were concerning.
It seems like the Red Foxes took the first step toward addressing those problems with a lockdown defensive effort at American, only surrendering 41 points and holding the Eagles to 24 percent shooting from the floor.
Marist put together two solid defensive performances in Buffalo, forcing a combined 47 turnovers and limiting Niagara and Canisius to 55 and 61 points respectively.
Assuming the offense can’t make a leap forward, the defense will be under pressure to stifle teams during the conference slate. As Brian Giorgis likes to say, the defense has to be a constant.
Will Poor Rebounding Continue into MAAC play?
Another trend that’s carried over from last year.
The Red Foxes have not won the rebounding battle in any of their games this season. Now, four of those games have seen Marist lose on the glass by five rebounds or less, but games against Villanova, Princeton, and, most surprisingly, Lafayette saw the Red Foxes lose heavily on the backboards.
Marist is second-to-last in the MAAC in rebounding margin. Getting outrebounded by the likes of Villanova and Columbia isn’t very surprising, but it is concerning that the Red Foxes haven’t been able to control the boards against teams closer to their height and skill level.
A key example of this came in the game against Canisius when Marist had a chance to complete an improbable comeback in the waning seconds. The Golden Griffins were up by three with less than 20 seconds left but missed a free throw that would have put them up by two possessions.
Instead of getting the rebound, the Red Foxes could only settle for a held ball with the arrow giving Canisius the ball back and helping them put the game away.
Marist has surrendered over 15 offensive rebounds per game so far this season and it would be troubling if that continues in MAAC play. Giving away extra offensive positions often proves to be crucial in games that go down to the wire.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Marist Athletics