Monday, January 19, 2009

Marist Women Roll On (Barely)

For the first 35 minutes of its game at Siena on Sunday afternoon it looked like the extended MAAC dominance of the Marist women's basketball team would come to an end.

Siena led nearly the entire way until that point, and held a 51-48 advantage after getting a basket with five minutes remaining.

And, then, the Lady Red Foxes begain playing like the team that, now, has won 35 consecutive games against conference opponents to emerge with a 65-55 victory.

Mostly, senior guard Julianne Viani began playing like, possibly, the best backcourt player in the league.

Viani erased Siena's late lead with a 3-pointer, and added a driving layup at the 1:27 mark to extend a 3-point advantage to a 58-53 lead. Thirty-four seconds later, she swished a pair of free throws to make it 61-53 and sew things up. Viani finished with a game-high 23 points that included a perfect 9-for-9 from the foul line (more about foul shooting later).

Viani, as one astute courtside observer opined, might be more important to Marist's fortunes than her 6-1 junior teammate Rachele Fitz, last season's conference Player of the Year and the league's top scorer (21.4 points per game) this year, and there's no debate about that here.

Marist showed its poise when it needed down the stretch and did one other thing extremely well ... it made its free throws. The Red Foxes made 21-0f-26 (80.8 percent), including 10-of-11 in the final five minutes, which is par for the course.

Marist entered the game shooting a phenomenal 79.2 percent of its free throws, fifth-best nationally.

And, those free throws ...

Despite Marist's physical inside defense that appeared to precipitate contact most times when Siena got the ball into the post, the Saints didn't take a free throw until there was 1:50 remaining in the game.

When it was over, Siena took just three free throws to 26 for Marist. Siena got whistled for 22 fouls while only 13 were called on Marist.

I'll let someone else make this editorial statement about that discrepancy ... a former Siena men's coach liked to say that game officials are well aware of which is the better team entering the game.

All this humble blogger will say is that a more "equitable" whistle might have meant the end of Marist's streak against MAAC opponents on this particular day.

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