Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Marist Women Dominant Once Again

Your blogger took the relatively short drive down the New York State Thruway to Poughkeepsie on Monday night to witness the women's game between Siena and Marist.

And, let me say right up front: I am a believer ... again.

A believer in Marist, and that the Red Foxes' total domination of other MAAC teams is secure for another year, and probably for the year after this one, too.

While most observers contend the conference, on the women's side, is going through a slight dip in overall team capabilities ... that's not the case for Marist at all.

The observation I made while watching Monday's game is that the MAAC, this season, is like the Fairy Tale "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

Well, this year is Marist and the Nine Dwarfs.

More than one conference coach has opined that Marist is more difficult to prepare for this year than, even, last season when it had three-time conference Player of the Year Rachele Fitz as its go-to player.

This year, Marist has multiple go-to players, as evidenced by its performance against Siena, a 60-30 victory by the Red Foxes.

Marist only had one player in double figures, sophomore forward Kate Oliver, who scored 10 points. In all, 12 different players scored. On the season, five different players have led the team in scoring for at least one game.

On Monday Marist got 31 of its 60 points from reserves including 17 from freshmen.

Against Siena, the only player who had somewhat of an "off night" from the field was preseason Player of the Year selection senior guard Erica Allenspach, who scored just five points on 2-of-7 shooting from the floor.

But, that was no factor whatsoever as the winners pulled away from a 30-21 advantage early in the second half with a 30-9 domination of play over the final 17 minutes.

Marist won Monday's game as much with its defense as with its offense. It held Siena to 3-of-27 shooting (11.1 percent) over the final 17 minutes of the contest.

Marist has already played eight of the nine other teams, including two meetings with Loyola which, right now, looks like the second-best team in the conference.

In those two games Marist won by 16 and 10 points, after holding a 20-point halftime lead in the game that ultimately was decided by 10 points.

The only remaining "challenge" for Marist might be coming this Sunday, a "Super" game on Super Bowl Sunday, if you will, when Marist is at Fairfield.

Fairfield is one of the conference's better teams thus far with a 7-3 conference record, good for third place. The Stags have a four-game winning streak, are 14-6 overall and 9-2 on their home court.

And, Fairfield seems to have an idea of how to beat Marist as the only team to do so in each of the past two seasons.

But, it will certainly be a tall task.

Marist domination? Let us count the ways ...

- Its current 15-game active winning streak is second-longest nationally, behind only the 16-game streak by Baylor, the No. 1 team nationally.

- Its turnover average of 11 per game is the best of the 340 women's teams nationally, nearly 2.3 turnovers fewer than the next best average.

- Marist has eight players with more assists than turnovers so far this season. Siena, by comparison, has one.

- Marist entered Monday's game at seventh-best nationally in points allowed per game, and moved up two spots to fifth after holding the Saints to 30 points. The Red Foxes now give up 50.7 points per game.
(NOTE: The best defensive team nationally is Fairfield, which allows 48.1 points per game.. Manhattan is No. 4 nationally at 49.8, while Marist is No. 5).

- Marist has won all 10 of its conference games by double figures and has outscored MAAC opponents, through its first 10 games, by an average of 26.2 points per game.

Is that dominating enough?

All of this is nothing new for Marist, which has had a double-figure winning streak every year since the 2004-04 season, with a high-water mark of 22 straight during the 2007-08 season.

And, its 18-0 MAAC record in 2007-08 is the only perfect conference season since the MAAC expanded to 10 teams and an 18-game schedule for the 1997-98 season.

Marist has either won outright or shared first place in the MAAC for the past seven seasons and is well on its way to No. 8 in a row. No other conference team, men's or women's, has had a string half that good.

The closest was by the Siena women's teams of 1997-98 through 2002-3 as the Saints won the regular-season title in the last three years of that run, and five of those six overall.

Since the start of the 2003-04 season Marist's MAAC record is 120-16, a winning percentage of .882.

Since the start of the 2004-05 season its conference record is 107-11, a winning percentage of .907. Including MAAC tournament play, its record since the start of the 2004-05 season is 124-12, a winning percentage of .912.

Marist has a 20-1 record in MAAC tournament games, when games are traditionally more difficult, beginning in the 2003-04 season.

And, the beat goes on.

The only players of significance Marist loses after this season are starters Allenspach, point guard Elise Caron, who was a career-long reserve prior to this season; and reserve center Maria Laterza.

The team should be strong again next season. So, like death and taxes, Marist's domination should remain a constant of life for the foreseeable future.

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