Saturday, February 19, 2011

ATM: Freaky Friday On-Court Happenings

Welcome to the latest version of “ATM,” otherwise known as Around The MAAC, and feel free to call this look a recent women’s basketball occurances a “Freaky Friday” report.


It doesn’t get any more so than Friday night in the conference’s great Northwest, otherwise known as Monteagle Ridge. There, host Niagara was immersed in what might have been its best chance, at least on paper, to get its first conference victory of the season.

The Purple Eagles worked overtime … and then some … but came up on the short end in more ways than one as Rider earned a 79-72 victory, but needed triple overtime to do so.

Niagara came up short not only on the scoreboard but on the court. The Purple Eagles started the game with nine healthy players, lost one early in the contest with an injury and, then, lost four other players via foul disqualifications through the overtime.

Over the last minute or so of the contest Niagara had just four players on the court as the Broncs held on for the victory.

“We finished the game with four people and we literally ran out of gas,” said Niagara coach Kendra Faustin.

One player who didn’t run out of gas was junior point guard Grace Cunningham, who played the game’s entire 55 minutes to set a program record. Cunningham finished with a career-high 14 points.

“(Grace) was amazing,” said Faustin. “It was the best game she played. She is playing through an injury, too, and is probably the most mentally-tough player I have ever coached.

It was Freaking Friday, too, not far down the road in Buffalo when Canisius hosted Iona.

Nothing freaky, though, about the Gaels’ 66-56 victory. Nor was there anything freaky in this statistic: Canisius, a program that has thrived from beyond the 3-point stripe for close to two decades, hoisted 12 bonus tries in the contest.

But the freaky thing is that Canisius misfired on all 12 attempts. Until the contest Canisius had the longest active streak of games with at least one made three-pointer, 510 consecutive contests.

The non-freaky version of ATM took place in Poughkeepsie where Marist won its 20th consecutive game overall with a 60-42 victory over Manhattan, which entered the contest in second place in the conference standings.

It was a night on which Marist retired the uniform of its former standout, 2010 graduate Rachele Fitz, one of the conference’s all-time best players.

Brandy Gang, a 6-2 junior forward and Fitz’ replacement in the Red Foxes’ starting lineup, did her best Fitz imitation scoring 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting.

Marist, rated 24th nationally this week in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll, is now 15-0 in conference play and needs just three more victories to close out the second 18-0 finish by a conference team since the MAAC expanded to its current 18-game schedule for the 1997-98 season.

The only other team to finish 18-0 in conference play was the 2007-08 Marist team of which Fitz was a key member.

And, there was also this ... Baylor, which entered play on Saturday with the nation's longest winning streak of 21 straight, dropped a 56-45 decision to Texas Tech.

It means that Marist now has the nation's longest active winning streak with 20 in a row.

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