An inability to close out games has been the biggest weakness for the 2022-23 Marist Red Foxes. During the five-game losing streak, the team played well during stretches, but the final five minutes would be where they began to fall apart. Marist avoided that in a very strong performance Sunday, defeating the Canisius Golden Griffins 75-67 to sweep the season series.
The Red Foxes were in control for most of the game, despite Canisius making a late push. Patrick Gardner imposed his will on a team that lacked the size and strength to frustrate the 6-foot-11 big man.
“I’m really proud that we held onto it and we were resilient after some unforced turnovers. Through this whole stretch, our preparation and our will to prepare has been tremendous. Our spirits have been great and our energy levels have been pretty good,” head coach John Dunne said.
Marist made it a point of emphasis to get Gardner involved right from the start. Both Isaiah Brickner and Noah Harris did a great job waiting for the screen from him, getting a smaller guard on Gardner more often than not. That put Canisius at a major disadvantage, something the Red Foxes were able to take advantage of.
The Golden Griffins trailed for a majority of the first half, that was until they took advantage of some poor three-point defense from Marist. Devean Williams and Siem Uijtendaal made back to back threes to give Canisius a 22-21 lead.
After Dunne called a timeout, Marist settled down and went back to what was working. Brickner led the charge, getting into the paint at will. By the end of the half, Marist was up 33-26 following a 12-4 run.
Second half troubles have been a concern for Marist throughout the year, but that was not the case against Canisius coming out of the break. The Red Foxes looked like they were ready to pull away, going up by as many as 16 with 12:05 remaining.
The ball movement that was so effective in the first half carried right over, with Marist getting a good shot on most of their possessions. Utilizing their speed in transition was crucial as well, giving the Golden Griffins less time to setup their defense.
Marist got up big, but were unable to keep it there. Canisius would not go away, using their three-point ability to close the gap. Marist had a few defensive lapses, which the Golden Griffins punished them for. With 2:38 left, Canisius had done enough to get the deficit down to just four.
Marist led 64-60 with over two and a half minutes remaining. Gardner got the ball at the top of the key, looking to find a driving lane towards the basket. Canisius center Jacco Fritz bit on the ball fake, giving Gardner an open lane. The Golden Griffins had a guard in helpside who was guarding Brickner at the right wing.
Gardner sold the drive, found his pick and roll partner for the open look, and Brickner buried the three-pointer to give Marist a much needed back in that moment. “That was definitely a big moment in the game. Felt good, especially in front of our fans. Hit the three and showed a bit of emotion, that felt great,” Brickner said.
Canisius would respond with two straight buckets, but the rest of the game was controlled by the Red Foxes. Gardner and Brickner continued to have the ball in their hands during crunch time, scoring eight straight points to put the game away.
Marist came into Sunday’s contest against the Golden Griffins with a point to prove. The Red Foxes played well for at least 30 minutes in nearly every game of their losing streak, so the difference was to put it all together for 40 minutes.
Gardner was excellent against the Golden Griffins, scoring a game-high 29 points on 9-for-19 shooting from the field and 11-for-13 from the free throw line. “I know the numbers may seem good, but we just got to build off today as a team,” Gardner said. Despite having one of his best scoring outputs of the year, Gardner’s focus was on the team, not his own individual output.
Brickner had one of his better all-around performances as well, adding 14 points on an efficient 5-for-6 shooting from the field, three rebounds and three assists. The freshman has now double figures in three of his last four games.
“Patrick [Gardner] and Isaiah [Brickner] are so mature, two of the more mature guys that I’ve coached in my career. They’re as mature as anybody and that is saying something when Isaiah is just a freshman,” Dunne said postgame.
Marist will go back on the road for a quick two-game road trip, starting off with the Saint Peter’s Peacocks on Friday, Feb. 10. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at. the Victor R. Yanitelli, S.J. Recreational Life Center.
Edited by Andrew Hard
Photo from Jonathan Kinane