Strong starts to games–especially at home–is something Marist has constantly had throughout the season. But on countless occasions, they have not turned that into 40 minutes of solid play. Marist had moments of brilliance in the early stages of the contest, but the Fairfield Stags proved to be too much to handle in the end, as the Red Foxes fell 70-61.
“I thought we started the game off with great energy and really good spirit. Almost got too high on the good start and you know, it’s a 40-minute game. When shots weren’t falling for us, we put our head down too much,” Marist head coach John Dunne said.
Marist began to game on an excellent run, scoring the first nine points of the contest. The Red Foxes willingness to share the basketball stretched their Fairfled defense out, causing so many problems for the Stags.
Noah Harris was the biggest beneficiary of that ball movement, as the guard was able to impact the game as a scorer and a playmaker. The sophomore connected on his first three-point attempt, giving Marist a 14-4 lead. “I thought he had a really good mindset going into the game. With Isaiah [Brickner] in foul trouble, he [Harris] had to play extended minutes in the first half,” Dunne said about Harris.
The Red Foxes would lead by as many as 15, but just as they have in a lot of games this season, that advantage quickly evaporated. Fairfield found a rhythm on the offensive end, which as result allowed themselves to set up their halfcourt defense.
Fairfield leaned on sophomore guard TJ Long to get themselves back into the game. The lefty shooter scored eight points in the final 3:26 of the first half, getting the Stags within one heading into the halftime break. Marist led 32-31, but all the momentum was in favor of Fairfield.
Despite playing well for large parts of the first half, the morale in the Marist locker room had taken a hit. “We were deflated at halftime. I don’t think our energy was great coming out of the second half,” coach Dunne said.
Stags guard Caleb Fields began the half with intensity, scoring a quick five points in the midst of a 9-0 Fairfield run. All of a sudden, Marist was down by eight less than three minutes into the second half.
The Red Foxes would immediately respond with seven straight points, giving the home crowd hope that they could completely overturn the deficit. But that would as close as Marist got, with Fairfeld holding control for the remainder of the contest.
Fields and Long continued to punish Marist for mistakes on the defensive end, as their dribble penetration put a ton of pressure on the bigs for the Red Foxes. As the second half went on, the home team was unable to keep up their efficient shooting percentage going. After shooting 56% from the field in the opening 20 minutes, that dropped all the way down to 31% in the second half.
Marist continued to play hard, but their efforts would come up short against a veteran Fairfield team. The final 25 minutes of the contest were dominated by the Stags, and it showed in the final score.
The Red Foxes are now 8-17 overall, with a 4-12 record in MAAC play. It has been a tough season for this group, especially considering how many good stretches of play they’ve had in a lot of these losses. But the reality is, teams have to play well for 40 minutes in order to win in this conference.
Marist is now last in the MAAC with four regular season games left on the schedule. It is going to be tough for them to climb up the standings, especially considering who they finish the season against. Still, the team has shown they can hang with anyone, but that is only if they are playing at or close to their best.
The Red Foxes will finish off their two-game home stand on Sunday, Feb. 19, facing off against the Niagara Purple Eagles. Patrick Gardner had a game-high 31 points, including the go-ahead basket with 6.8 seconds remaining to help the Marist defeat Niagara 66-64 back on Jan. 15. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. at McCann Arena.
Photo From Marist Athletics
Edited By Dan Aulbach