MAAC Championship Preview: How the Red Foxes Can Capture the Conference Title 

Marist is just one game away from the NCAA Tournament, an event the program has not been a part of since the 1986-87 season. The Red Foxes will need to beat the most talented team in the MAAC, the Iona Gaels, a team that won 17 conference games in the regular season.

All three of Marist’s wins have come in different ways, which should benefit them as they prepare to play a team that swept them during the regular season. The Red Foxes are heavy underdogs, but they do have a certain level of confidence that makes them a real threat against Iona, who will have pressure to win as favorites. 

Regular Season Matchups

Iona at Marist: 1/6/2023

Result: Iona 84-57 Marist

Iona G Daniss Jenkins: 23 points, 10-for-18 shooting, 3-for-6 shooting from three, 10 assists

Iona F Nelly Junior Joseph: 19 points, 8-for-12 shooting, 12 rebounds

Marist F Patrick Gardner: 16 points, 7-for-11 shooting, four rebounds

Marist at Iona: 3/2/2023

Result: Iona 93-74 Marist

Iona F Nelly Junior Joseph: 27 points, 11-for-16 shooting, 11 rebounds,

Iona G Daniss Jenkins: 21 points, 8-for-17 shooting, 10 assists, seven rebounds

Marist G Kam Farris: 17 points, 7-for-14 shooting, 3-for-6 shooting from three

Keys to the Game:

1: Defend Nelly Junior Joseph Without Fouling

Iona has a ton of offensive weapons that can threaten any opponent, but the most dominant of them all is Nelly Junior Joseph. Marist does not match up with him as well as they do against the other top bigss in the conference. Junior Joseph is as strong as they get at the five position, averaging 23 points and 11.5 rebounds in their two regular season matchups. 

Stephane Ingo is most suited to defend the All-MAAC First Team recipient. The 6-foot-9 graduate student is one of the best shot blockers in the conference, averaging 1.2 blocks a night. Marist will want to keep Patrick Gardner out of foul trouble, so having him match up with a less physical big in Osborn Shema should keep him on the floor.

This version of the Gaels goes as far as Junior Joseph takes them. Iona has great guards, but their big is the most important player as it relates to having success. If Marist can defend him without sending him to the free throw line, the Red Foxes have a chance to stymie Iona’s scoring attack.   

2: Stay Composed Against Full-Court Pressure

Marist did wind up getting past the Peacocks last night, but their performance in the second half was shaky at times. Credit to Saint Peter’s, as their full-court pressure put the Red Foxes in a position where they were sped up the offensive end. Careless turnovers and shots with ample time on the shot clock were prevalent in the final 20 minutes.

Iona doesn’t press as much as Saint Peter’s, but they do go to full-court pressure off makes. In their two matchups against the Gaels, Marist committed 10 and 15 turnovers respectfully. The Red Foxes would certainly feel better about themselves if they kept that number below 10. 

That number will ride on Isaiah Brickner staying in control when being guarded by the likes of Daniss Jenkins and Walter Clayton Jr. The Marist guard is playing his best basketball of the season, both as a scorer and a playmaker. If Brickner can get the team set up on offense, the Red Foxes could be in for another impressive offensive showing.

3: Get Kam Farris Involved Early 

Brickner and Noah Harris have been tremendous in this tournament, but one guy who has not shot the ball as well is Kam Farris. The junior guard finished the regular season on a tear, averaging 10.9 points over his last 10 games. That has not transferred over to the MAAC Tournament, as he is scoring just four points per contest.

The number of minutes he has played along with fewer shots going to him has played a role in his scoring woes, but regardless, he can be a deciding factor in whether or not Marist beats Iona. John Dunne has gone to a three-guard lineup to match up against pressure on a few different occasions, so we may see Farris join Brickner and Harris on the floor.

Farris had a quality showing in Marist’s loss at Iona, scoring a team-high 17 points in 28 minutes. If he can reach double figures in tonight’s championship game, the Red Foxes can keep it close against the high-flying Gales. 

Edited by Ricardo Martinez

Photo from Marist Athletics

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