During their current losing streak, Marist has played at a very high level in the first half of games. The struggle to make second half adjustments was no different on Sunday, as Marist fell 70-55 at the hands of the Siena Saints.
“Siena is a good team, even without [Javian] McCollum and [Michael] Baer. They played spirited defense and were extremely physical,” head coach John Dunne said. “You know, we just didn’t make enough plays from our end. We had a good 33 minutes there out of 40. We need to get that to 40, especially if shots aren’t falling.”
Marist began the game with high energy, especially on the defensive end. Anytime there was a loose ball, the Red Foxes were the first ones to the floor to get possession. Patrick Gardner got a quick four, helping Marist get out to a 10-1 lead.
“Just like last game, our defensive energy was tremendous. Unfortunately, we had too many turnovers early in the game and we weren’t getting enough shots up,” coach Dunne said about their strong start.
The Saints would not go away though, as they immediately responded with an 18-4 run to take a 19-15 lead. Marist began to struggle on the defensive glass, giving Siena too many second opportunities. Combined with some difficulties in the scoring department, the Red Foxes started trailing.
Following the U8 timeout, Trace Salton got Marist within two on a jumper from about 15 feet. A few minutes later, Stephane Ingo hammered a dunk home with two hands, forcing Siena to call a timeout and give Marist a one-point lead. Noah Harris came off the screen to find the big man rolling towards the rim.
With 4:20 remaining in the first half, Marist desperately needed to go into the locker room with a lead. Against a team like Siena, it would be crucial to have any advantage going into the second half to make it competitive.
Unfortunately for Marist, the Saints were the stronger team to finish the half. Failed execution of both ends of the floor hurt the Red Foxes, allowing Siena to go into halftime on an 11-4 run. Dunne and his staff had to feel pretty good about how his team looked in the opening 20 minutes.
What really hurt Marist in this game was their start to the second half. Unlike the beginning of the game, the Saints were the first ones to the loose balls following halftime. That gave more life to the Siena faithful, who traveled down for the game and had a large following in McCann today.
The Saints gradually grew their lead as the half went on, eventually taking a 10-point lead at the 7:37 mark. Once the deficit got increasingly daunting, it was agoing to be a tall task for the Red Foxes to make it a one or two possession game.
Marist would get the lead down to as low as nine, but that was as close as they would get. Siena stayed in control for the rest of the game, showcasing their dominance on both ends of the floor. Despite showing a lot of fight down the stretch, the Red Foxes had to settle for another difficult home loss in the league.
Patrick Gardner had another solid performance for the Red Foxes, finishing with 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting from the field and seven rebounds in 36 minutes. Kam Farris added 14 points on 4-for-11 shooting from the field off the bench.
Jared Billups had a sensational game for the Saints, finishing with a career-high 24 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field and 12-for-15 shooting from the free throw line.
Siena showed a lot of maturity and grit in their win against Marist, despite being without their lead guard in McCollum. The Saints are at the top of the MAAC for a reason, and they continue to prove that they’ll be the team to beat down in Atlantic City.
Marist will head back on the road for a mid-week matchup with the Quinnipiac Bobcats on Wednesday, Feb. 1. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at the People’s United Center. Marist will look to respond against the same team that knocked them out of the postseason tournament a year ago.