The beginning of March is when you want to be playing your best brand of basketball. Marist is still searching for that after another disappointing performance on their home floor Saturday night. The Red Foxes looked lost on the defensive end for large parts of the game, losing 88-76 to the Quinnipiac Bobcats on senior night.
“Disappointed we lost on senior night, it would have been nice to give the crowd a win in our final home game. We didn’t play well enough in the first half. Quinnipiac was coming off a loss and they were playing for a bye. The intensity they showed tonight proved that,” Marist head coach John Dunne said.
Quinnipiac needed a victory over Marist in order to avoid playing in the first round of the conference tournament. The Bobcats needed to show a bit of desperation from the tip, and certainly did. Marist kept up with Quinnipiac’s four-out offense for the first nine plus minutes. Patrick Gardner had a few early baskets that helped the Red Foxes stay in touching distance.
Isaiah Brickner had a tough finish in the lane, which would give the Red Foxes a 21-20 lead with 10:26 remaining in the first half. That would be the last time they led in the contest.
Quinnipiac point guard Dezi Jones was able to constantly get downhill with his speed and quickness, forcing the Marist defense to collapse towards the paint. That allowed their three-point shooters like Matt Balanc and Tyrese Williams to position themselves for clean looks, which they would knock down at a high clip.
The Bobcats blitzed Marist after Brickner’s layup, going on a 12-0 run to open the game up. Suddenly, the Red Foxes were in a position where they had to play catch up, leaving themselves exposed going the other way.
Late in the first half, Quinnipiac would do it again, going on a separate 12-0 run to go up 50-31. Jaden Daughtry would nail a last second three-pointer, cutting the deficit to 16 heading into the break.
Quinnipiac shot 61.3% from the field and 69.2% from three in the first half. The Red Foxes were doing their part on the offensive end, but their inability to contain the Bobcats attack was evident from the jump. Balanc, Jones and Willaims were all in double figures through 20 minutes of action.
The only way back for Marist in the second half was to have a better start coming out of halftime. They certainly did that, going on a 11-5 over the first five minutes to cut the lead to just 10. Stephane Ingo and Kam Farris were able to finish at the rim, which gave the home crowd some life.
Slowly but surely, Quinnipiac would build on their double digit advantage. Anytime it looked as if Marist could make it a two or three possession game, the Bobcats would get a big basket. The lead would eventually rise back up to 19 following two made free throws from Balanc with 8:38 remaining.
Marist would find some life over the final eight minutes, showing an ability to get stops on the defensive end. That allowed them to get out on the break, releasing their guards in order to finish in transition. With 2:53 remaining, the Red Foxes trailed by just nine. Their comeback was too little, too late, as the Bobcats would hold on in the end.
Balanc and Jones both finished with a team-high 21 points. Williams and Luis Kortright finished in double figures, scoring 14 and 13 respectfully. Patrick Gardner showed out in the loss, scoring a game-high 27 points while adding nine rebounds.
The defense for Marist was better in the second half, but they need to be much improved in that department next week. Allowing their opponent to shoot over 54% from the field and 56% from three will not translate to success in the postseason.
With tonight’s loss, Marist is set to face off against the Manhattan Jaspers in the No. 6 vs. No. 11 matchup down in Atlantic City next week. The Red Foxes were locked into the No. 11 seed prior to tip-off, although their opponent in the first round of the conference tournament depended on the result of their game against Quinnipiac.
Marist and Manhattan split the season series, with each game being won by the road team. The Jaspers came to McCann Arena on Dec. 19 and won 80-69, with 42 of those points coming from Ant Nelson and Samir Stewart. In the reverse matchup, the Red Foxes went to Draddy Gymnasium on Feb. 24 to grab an 81-58 victory, led by 25 points from Patrick Gardner.
“There won’t be a lot of adjustments from a tactical standpoint. It is going to come down to who is valuing possessions on offensive and getting quality shots, and who is playing with more grit on the defensive end,” coach Dunne said about their third matchup with the Jaspers.
Manhattan head coach RaShawn Stores has done a marvelous job to put the Jaspers in this position, but the question is will they have enough size to contain Gardner and Stephane Ingo. That question will be answered on Tuesday, Mar. 7, when these two teams tip-off at 9:00 p.m. in Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall.
Edited By Dan Aulbach
Photo By Kira Crutcher