It was a game in which Marist women’s basketball had its moments but could not piece together enough consistency to steal one against a solid team on the road, falling away late to Fairfield.
The Red Foxes’ first trip to the brand-new Mahoney Arena ended in a 73-57 defeat to the Stags on Thursday night in a game with significant conference tournament implications.
Marist’s last lead came late in the first quarter, and while the Red Foxes stuck around for much of the game, too many wasted possessions allowed the Stags to pull away.
Besides dealing Marist head coach Brian Giorgis his 200th career loss, Fairfield solidified its status as the 5-seed in the MAAC Tournament with a win over the Red Foxes who were in the chasing pack.
Marist (11-15, 7-10 in the MAAC) will battle Manhattan for the 6-seed and the right to play last-place Saint Peter’s in the first round in Atlantic City. The Red Foxes, losers of four out of their last five, will need to right the ship before March comes around.
Marist shot 40 percent from the floor and 4-for-12 from three. The Red Foxes endured a few too many scoring droughts that allowed Fairfield to pull away in the second half. In the end, there were still too many stagnant sets that resulted in empty possessions for the visitors.
In the first meeting, a 43-34 Fairfield win, the Red Foxes at least had no complaints on the defensive end. On Thursday, the Red Foxes allowed the Stags to shoot 11-for-20 (55 percent) from three-point range. Fairfield shot 52 percent from the floor on the night.
Zaria Shazer turned in a much-improved performance from the first meeting between the teams. She finished with a game-high 22 points on 8-for-18 shooting in 38 minutes of action.
Kiara Fisher was also in double figures but was a non-factor in the second half. All of her 11 points came in the first 20 minutes and Marist’s second-half struggles could be tied to her lack of production.
The Southern Tier duo kept Marist within shouting distance, combining for 24 of the team’s first 26 points. Predictably, they were the only two Red Foxes in double figures. Sam Bailey was the next-leading scorer with six.
Callie Cavanaugh paced Fairfield (14-13, 10-8 in the MAAC) with 18.
The Red Foxes led for most of the first quarter, but the Stags overcame a slew of early turnovers to finish the period on a 10-0 run fueled by hot shooting and was capped off by a transition layup from Lauren Beach to beat the buzzer.
Shazer completed a three-point play early in the second quarter but the Stags got a little bit of luck as Mimi Rubino banked in a triple to make it 23-19 with 8:18 left in the first half.
With Marist not doing much on offense, Fairfield slowly extended its lead into double-digits as Cavanaugh scored off an offensive rebound to make it 32-22 with just over four minutes remaining in the half.
Shazer and Fisher were the reason why the Red Foxes were still in the game as the half wound down. Shazer scored four straight to make it 32-26 but the Stags pushed their lead back up to 10 soon after.
Marist responded through someone not from the Binghamton area in the form of Ciara Croker. The freshman from New Rochelle hit two jumpers from inside the arc to provide some positive momentum and sent the Red Foxes into the break down just 36-31.
Giorgis’ team continued to pull closer to open the third quarter, cutting the gap down to 39-38 after Shazer capped a 7-0 run with a layup that was set up by a textbook pump fake. The Red Foxes could not grab a piece of the lead and the Stags eventually began to find some distance again.
The game flipped when Poughkeepsie native Kate Peek nailed two threes in two minutes to put Fairfield up 50-42 with 1:47 left in the third. Then, it was Rubino’s turn to hit from downtown, with her triple putting the Stags up 53-42 and capping a 9-0 run.
Shazer broke a three-and-a-half-minute scoring drought with a three-point play but in the closing seconds of the third, Cavanaugh responded with a layup off a lob pass for the hosts to put them up 55-45 heading into the final 10 minutes.
Janelle Brown stretched the lead to 60-47 with a triple at the 7:54 mark as Marist endured another offensive lull.
The Red Foxes scored just five points in the first six and a half minutes of the deciding quarter, not threatening the Stags, who were not troubled down the stretch.
Marist returns to action on Saturday for what is sure to be an emotional affair as the Red Foxes host Niagara in Giorgis’ final game at the McCann Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Marist Athletics