MAAC Tournament Semifinal Preview: Keys to Defeating Last Season’s Cinderella Team

Marist is just two wins away from going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 1986-87 season. The Red Foxes were dominant from start to finish against the Quinnipiac Bobcats Thursday night, winning 75-59 to knock off the three seed. 

The semifinal will provide a much different test, a third matchup with the 10-seeded Saint Peter’s Peacocks. This isn’t the same team that we saw in the NCAA Tournament twelve months ago, but they are a force to be reckoned with. Back-to-back postseason wins against Fairfield and Rider shows what Saint Peter’s is capable of. 

Regular Season Matchups

Saint Peter’s at Marist: 1/20/2023

Result: Saint Peter’s 61-57 Marist

Saint Peter’s G Isiah Dasher: 16 points, 4-for-12 shooting, nine rebounds

Saint Peter’s F Mouhamed Sow: 16 points, 5-for-8 shooting, 2-for-3 from three, five rebounds

Marist G Noah Harris: 15 points, 4-for-9 shooting, 3-for-7 from three, three rebounds

Marist at Quinnipiac: 2/10/2023

Result: Saint Peter’s 67-56 Marist

Saint Peter’s G Kyle Cardaci: 16 points, 4-for-7 shooting, 3-for-6 shooting from three

Saint Peter’s G Jaylen Murray: 14 points, 4-for-16 shooting, 1-for-5 from three, three assists

Marist F Patrick Gardner: 17 points, 6-for-18 shooting, nine rebounds, five assists

Keys to the Game

1: Get Patrick Gardner Comfortable From the Jump

Marist has run their offense through Patrick Gardner all season long. That has continued in Atlantic City, as the big is averaging 22 points on 44.7 percent shooting in their two postseason games. Gardner has taken 38 shots during that stretch, many of which have come with two defenders in his air space.

Quinnipiac showed Gardner a lot of different looks in comparison to the coverages he saw in Marist’s first-round win over Manhattan. The Bobcats sent a second defender at Gardner to start, but went away from that once they got down big. The Jaspers did not have the size to match him and Stephane Ingo, so they doubled for a majority of the game.

Gardner’s influence on the outcome of their matchup with Saint Peter’s is going to be monumental. If they can get him involved and scoring in the opening exchanges of the game, he and Marist may be in for another big night. 

2: Keep Jaylen Murray in Check

Jaylen Murray, one of the few guys who returned from Saint Peter’s Elite Eight run, is leading the way for the Peacocks in their quest for another improbable run through the MAAC Tournament. The sophomore guard is on a tear over his last two games, averaging a team-high 23.5 points during that stretch.

His efficiency in their wins against Fairfield and Rider has been impressive, as he shot 54.8 percent from the field and 46.6 percent from three. Murray does a lot of his work off his dribble, hitting quite a few shots in traffic. He is playing some of his best basketball of the season and will certainly be someone Marist needs to key in on. 

When the teams last faced off in early February, Noah Harris began the game on Murray. Expect more of the same tonight, although Isaiah Brickner and Kam Farris could find themselves on the quick guard throughout the game. If Marist can contest his looks without fouling, Murray may be in for an off night.

3: Search For the Great Shot, Not the Good One

Marist did not shoot a high percentage against Saint Peter’s in either regular season matchup.  On Jan. 20, the Red Foxes shot 36.6 percent from the field and 25 percent from three. It did not improve in game two, where Marist shot 31.1 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three in their loss on Feb. 10. 

Credit to the Peacocks, who own the best scoring defense in the MAAC with 65 points allowed per game. Saint Peter’s head coach Bashir Mason has a team that is built on their relentless defending. It is the biggest reason why they are just two games away from returning to the NCAA Tournament. 

The best course of action for the Red Foxes to thrive against that defense is to have an improved shot selection. Marist has good shot makers on the perimeter that can connect at an efficient rate, it is a matter of being patient on the offensive end. Marist was nearly perfect in that area against Quinnipiac, but can they do it for a second night in a row?

Edited by Ricardo Martinez

Photo from Kira Crutcher

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