Consistently winning games in a conference as tight as the MAAC is difficult, especially when a team goes through stretches where they simply can’t put the ball in the basket. Marist struggled in the department again, losing to the Siena Saints 73-65 on Sunday afternoon. The Red Foxes showed a lot of fight in the second half, but a veteran Siena team put them away down the stretch.
“We competed really well, but we didn’t shoot the ball well enough unfortunately. Not just from three but we missed a lot of chippies inside. Even through all of that, we kept it really close,” Marist head coach John Dunne said.
At this point in the season, opponents know what Patrick Gardner is capable of on any given night. Teams want to get the ball out of his hands, forcing the rest of the team to beat them in a sense. On some occasions, other shot makers have been able to deliver. Unfortunately, for large parts of the game against Siena, that was not the case.
Marist struggled to score the ball throughout the first half, but what kept them in the game was their defense. Yes, the Red Foxes only had 25 points on 32.3% shooting in the opening 20 minutes, but Siena only shot 34.4% themselves. Marist won the rebound battle 24-22 in the first half, doing their best to keep the Saints off the glass.
Dunne’s group went into halftime with the momentum, finishing the first half on 7-3 run over the final 2:24. Marist trailed by four, and with a strong start to the second half, they could quickly regain the lead.
Well, just as we have seen in a number of games this season, the Red Foxes came out slow in second half. Siena hunted the ball on the offensive glass, creating second chance looks that keep the Marist defense completely off balance.
Siena guard Javian McCollum scored a quick five points, helping them get on a 7-0 run to extend their lead to nine. Less than three minutes into the half and the Red Foxes were already in a deep hole.
Over the next few minutes, the Saints would continue to build on their advantage, growing to as many as 17 at the 12:52 mark. Marist could have fallen apart at that point, but they continued to battle. The Red Foxes stormed back with an 11-1 run, making it a 48-41 game in favor of Siena with 10:03 remaining.
The catalyst for the Marist run was their defense, that was until they made a huge mistake. Siena ran a play that had Andrew Platek coming off a triple screen, hoping that it would create a wide open three-point attempt for the former North Carolina Tar Heel.
Marist guard Isaiah Brickner was guarding the forward, but was unable to stick with the shooter. Platek made three, put Siena up by 11, and coach Dunne immediately called a timeout. All of sudden, the Red Foxes were down double digits again, but they did not back down.
Gardner and Kam Farris hit some key shots to get Marist right back into the game, cutting the deficit to six with 4:27 remaining. Siena would turn the ball over an the ensuing possession, giving the Red Foxes an opportunity to make it a one-possession game.
Noah Harris got the ball, brought it up the floor and got an open look from three. The sophomore, who struggled to score all afternoon, continued to show his frustration. His shot missed wide right as the teams went to their benches for the final media timeout. Harris would finish the game with eight points.
From that point on, Siena was able to close it out with the shot making ability of McCollum and Platek. Gardner hit some big shots down the stretch to put some pressure on the Saints, but they were able to deliver.
Gardner was sensational against the Saints, finishing with a game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds in 36 minutes. “I love playing with a group of guys who never give up. It sucks to lose but we never put our head down,” Gardner said.
McCollum, who did not play in their previous win over Marist, was the standout performer for the Saints. The guard finished with 23 points, three rebounds and five assists, showing why he is one of the best guards in the conference.
Marist will head home to start a two-game homestand, beginning with the Fairfield Stags (11-14, 7-8 MAAC) on Friday, Feb. 17. The Stags defeated Marist 73-54 when matched up back on Dec. 30 at Leo D. Mahoney Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at McCann Arena.
Edited by Andrew Hard
Photo from Marist Athletics