Monday, February 16, 2009

Marist Women Still a Strong Force

Reports of the vulnerability of the Marist women's team might have been a little premature.

The Lady Red Foxes lost twice in a 14-game span recently, dropping a 73-65 decision (at home, no less) to Fairfield on Jan. 23 and, then, lost by a 69-60 score at Canisius on Feb. 6.

But those, now, appear to have been mid-season blips. At least if the most-recent Marist result is any indication.

The Red Foxes won a nationally televised (ESPN2) battle of northeast mid-major level powers on Sunday, earning a 78-73 victory over Hartford in overtime.

The game was a match of defending league champions, Marist of the MAAC and Hartford of America East. And, both look like they'll defend those crowns. The Red Foxes are 13-2 in MAAC play while the Hawks are 9-1 in its league.

It had to be a satisfying outcome for Marist for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it ended Hartford's 34-game homecourt winning streak, which had been the second-longest active one nationally (only UConn's still-active 36-game streak is longer).

The game was played before a crowd of 3,217, the largest ever to witness a women's game at Hartford's Chase Arena at the Reich Family Pavilion, a place where the Hawks rarely lose. Hartford had been 64-2 on its home court since midway through the 2004-05 season.

The outcome also brought a measure of revenge for a Hartford victory at Marist a year ago, ending a 26-game Marist homecourt winning streak. The Hawks won that game, 49-32, holding Marist to its lowest point total since midway through the 2004-05 season.

Marist outscored Hartford 12-7 in the overtime session, with five of those points coming from 5-foot-10 swingperson Lynzee Johnson, who finished with 12 points in the contest. Johnson also sank two clutch free throws with 26 seconds left in regulation that tied it up, and Hartford's Katie Kelley missed a fadeway jumper with two seconds left that set up the extra session.

"That was one of the best games I've ever been involved in," said Marist coach Brian Giorgis. "It was too bad somebody had to lose. It was a great game for mid-major women's basketball."

The victory was the third straight for Marist since its loss to Canisius. Since then, it beat Loyola, 86-53, and avenged one of its earlier league losses by knocking off Fairfield, 64-52.

Marist is now 23-3 overall and has a 14-1 MAAC record.

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