Bad offense or good defense? That’s usually the question in low-scoring games.
On Saturday evening at the McCann Center, it was a lot of both. In a matchup of perennial MAAC powers, Marist women’s basketball lost a 43-34 grind of a game to Fairfield, producing a scoreline that was more appropriate for NFL Wildcard Weekend than college basketball.
The teams combined for just 24 points on 10 made field goals in the first half before both squads started to find a little more accuracy and the game came to life in the final 20 minutes.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game,” Marist head coach Brian Giorgis said. “You could tell both sides scouted very well… but [Fairfield] made plays down the stretch and we didn’t.”
Zaria Shazer made it 37-34 with a contested layup with 2:52 left in the game, but Fairfield’s Janelle Brown answered with an easy score on the other end. On the next Stags’ possession, Brown went to the floor and drew a foul to the dismay of Giorgis, who earned himself a technical foul for his protests.
Since Fairfield was in the bonus, Brown got four free throws and made three, giving her team a 42-34 lead with 1:57 remaining.
“I don’t know what I did wrong,” Giorgis said. “But that didn’t cost us the game. Down the stretch their go-to kids made plays and we didn’t force other people to step-up.”
With the game winding down, the Red Foxes couldn’t take a lid off the basket and did not threaten to mount a comeback. Shazer’s layup with nearly three minutes remaining marked the final Marist points of the evening.
Giorgis stopped in the middle of the post-game handshake line to have a few more words with the referee who made the critical technical call.
It was a clear regression on offense for the Red Foxes, who strung together two solid shooting performances on the road against Siena and Saint Peter’s.
Marist (7-9, 3-4 in the MAAC) shot 26 percent from the floor and just 1-for-13 from three-point range. It was the Red Foxes’ worst offensive output of the campaign, five points below the previous season-low of 39 points against Villanova.
Shazer, who was one assist shy of a triple-double on Thursday, couldn’t replicate that performance, finishing with nine points on just 4-for-18 shooting, playing the entire 40 minutes.
Kiara Fisher didn’t play most of the second half at Saint Peter’s after injuring her left shoulder earlier in the game. Luckily for Marist, it was just a minor setback and she was back in the starting lineup against the Stags sporting a brace on that shoulder.
She finished with a team-high 10 points. Kendall Krick and Maeve Donnelly each had six.
Marist’s starting five scored all of the team’s 34 points.
“We rely too much on a few people, and we’ve got to get more people involved,” Giorgis said. “And that’s my fault.”
Callie Cavanaugh, one of the holdovers from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, came into the game as the leading scorer in the MAAC at 17.1 points per game. On Saturday, she delivered in the clutch despite shooting just 5-for-19 and finished with 14.
Brown had a game-high 18 for the visitors.
Fairfield (9-7, 5-2 in the MAAC) shot 25 percent from the floor and 4-for-17 from three. The Stags outshot Marist 19-5 at the foul line, making 13 compared to just three for the home team.
Fairfield overcame 19 turnovers and outrebounded the Red Foxes 50-33.
The teams continued to go back and forth trading empty possessions well into the second quarter. After the Stags and the Red Foxes combined to open the game 4-for-40 from the floor, Fairfield’s Jocelyn Polansky mercifully broke a nearly ten-minute scoring drought for the visitors with an open three that made the score 8-5.
Marist answered with scoring from Fisher and Maeve Donnelly to tie the game at 9 with 3:51 left in the first half but the Stags countered with a 4-0 run of their own. A score from Shazer with 26 seconds left meant that the Red Foxes didn’t go into half stuck in the single digits, trailing 13-11.
The shooting stats were as brutal as you’d expect with neither team shooting above 17 percent and combining to go an ice-cold 10-for-59 from the floor. Marist’s power trio of Shazer, Fisher, and Krick combined for five points on 3-for-15 shooting in the first 20 minutes.
Thankfully, the pace picked up as the second half began. Marist took a 19-17 lead after Fisher lasered a pass to Krick for a layup to give the Red Foxes their first advantage of the game.
Fairfield had the answer and Janelle Brown knocked down a three to give the Stags a 22-19 edge with 6:17 left in the third quarter. She struck again later in the third and Fairfield took a 28-25 advantage to the fourth.
The Red Foxes will return to action on Thursday evening when they travel to Northern Maryland to face MAAC newcomer Mount St. Mary’s. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Marist Athletics