Friday, March 8, 2013

Recipe for Beating Marist Women Is Hard to Follow

Another MAAC tournament championship for the Marist women's basketball team is the closest thing to a sure thing one can find here.

After all, not only have the Red Foxes won the last seven conference tournaments, and the last 10 regular-season titles, but they've won 29 straight games against MAAC opponents. Their 18-0 record this year was their third perfect conference record in the past six seasons.

But, nothing is impossible ... not even a Marist loss.

So, how does a opponent go about doing that?

The best person to ask is Manhattan coach John Olenowski.

His team not only owns the last win by a MAAC team over Marist (a 48-44 decision on Feb. 4, 2012), but the last two (the other was by a 65-62 score on Feb. 29, 2010). Otherwise, Marist has won 68 of its last 70 games against conference opponents.

And, Manhattan has given Marist some of its toughest confrontations to date this season, trailing at halftime of the two regular-season meetings by one and five points, and trailing by six after the first play of the second half in Friday's tournament quarterfinal round contest.

"To be successful against them you have to take away their easy baskets," said Olenowski. "You have to make them score from the outside, and when they shoot from the perimeter you have to get out and contest those shots.

"You have to push them a little further outside than they'd like to be. If you let them get some easy baskets you're in big trouble. The key is to force them a little further out and force them to take contested shots. If you let them get on a run offensively it's tough to match that because they're also so good defensively."

It is, of course, a lot easier said than done.

Manhattan has had the relative success it has had against Marist because of its difficult-to-penetrate 1-3-1 zone defense that employs some quick players capable of closing out on shooters.

Yet that still wasn't enough this season as Marist won the two regular-season meetings with the Jaspers by scores of 60-39 and 66-47 and, then, added Friday's 72-50 decision to this season's ledger.

Can someone follow that recipe and beat the Marist women's team at the MAAC tournament?

Not impossible ... just very unlikely.

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