Marist entered Friday night’s contest without a win in conference play this season. With their backs against the wall, the best team in the MAAC came to town: the Iona Gaels. The Red Foxes were dominated from start to finish, as Iona left McCann Arena with a 84-57 victory.
The Gaels came into this game short staffed, as leading scorer Walter Clayton Jr. was unable to play after suffering a thigh injury earlier in the day. However, the loss didn’t cause the Gaels to flinch. The evolution of Odessa College transfer Daniss Jenkins has given Rick Pitino another dynamic playmaker, which was on full display against the Red Foxes.
In the opening minutes of the game, it became clear that Gaels wanted to take advantage of having two bigs on the floor. Nelly Junior Joseph and Osborn Shema constantly got touches, a lot of which came off dribble penetration from Jenkins.
The first media timeout did not come until the 13-minute mark in the first half. Both teams committed very few fouls while playing with plenty of pace. The Gaels led 17-13, with all of their points coming from the trio of Jenkins, Joseph and Shema.
From that point on, it was all about Iona and their ability to stretch the lead. Less than two minutes later, the Gaels were up by double figures, leaving Marist in an attempt to play catch up.
Later on in the first, a three pointer from Jenkins gave Iona a 36-23 lead, their largest advantage of the half. It would have been a much bigger deficit for the Red Foxes if it were not for the efforts of Patrick Gardner, who kept the Marist offense afloat.
The 6-foot-11 center had a team-high 11 points in the first half, leaving the Red Foxes trailing 38-26 at the break. Marist allowed Iona to shoot 50 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from three-point range in the opening half. In comparison, the Red Foxes were 36.7 percent from the field and 30 percent from three, the major difference in the first 20 minutes.
If Marist were to regain any momentum in the contest, it would require a strong start to the second half. Instead, Iona went ahead and stretched their lead even further, going on a 14-3 run in the four minutes to pull away. At that point, the Red Foxes were now down by 23.
It was more of the same following halftime, as Iona was doing more of the little things on both ends of the floor. Whether it was getting second opportunities on the offensive glass or forcing the opponent into tough shots, the Gaels were better in both of those departments throughout the contest.
The rest of the game went back and forth, as the Red Foxes continued to battle with Iona. The Gaels would lead by as many as 29 at one point in the second half, but Marist would eventually fall by 27.
Daniss Jenkins was the star for Iona, finishing the game with 23 points on 10-for-18 shooting from the field and 3-for-6 shooting from three-point range. The guard also had five rebounds and ten assists in 32 minutes.
Patrick Gardner had a bounce back performance for the Red Foxes after a tough game against the Fairfield Stags last week. He had a team-high 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field and four rebounds in 27 minutes.
At this point in the season, Iona and Marist are in two completely different situations. Iona are right in the thick of the race for a regular season title in the conference, something that has been in contention for the better part of the last decade. On the other hand, Marist is still searching for a team identity.
With so many newcomers in the program, the growing pains should not come as much of a surprise. Even though we are now in the thick of conference play, the Marist men’s basketball team is still building continuity within the group. The hope is that once it clicks, this team will get into a groove and start winning games.
Their next chance to get on the board in MAAC play will come on Sunday, Jan. 8, when the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers come to town. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. at McCann Arena
Edited By Dan Aulbach
Photo From Marist Athletics