Sunday, December 22, 2013

Marist Women Hitting Stride, Topple National Power

Just 35 days removed from an 0-3 start and 29 days since the record was 1-4, it certainly looks right now that everything has been restored to order for the Marist women's basketball team.

If there was any remaining doubt about that, the Red Foxes dispelled it with a 76-69 victory over Oklahoma Saturday at the McCann Center in Poughkeepsie. Oklahoma entered the game ranked 20th nationally in the most-recent AP Top 25 poll.

The victory marked Marist's first-ever win against a top-25 team on its home court.

That's a little misleading, since top 25 teams don't often visit the home courts of mid-major level programs. Still, it happens and it happens more often at Marist than at any other MAAC school. Earlier this season, Kentucky (ranked No. 7 nationally) came to Poughkeepsie where it earned a 75-61 victory over Marist in the season-opener for both programs on Nov. 8.

Back then Marist was still trying to find some chemistry for a team of some role players moving into more-meaningful positions as well as the unavailability of four scholarship players.

Only one of those four, senior point guard Casey Dulin, has returned but she has alreade very significant contributions as well as extending what had been a very short Marist bench.

The team is still short inside as its only two players on the roster taller than 6-1 (6-5 Delaney Hollenbeck and 6-3 Tori Jarosz) remain out with injuries.

But the Red Foxes are big everywhere else, particularly in terms of player improvement.

No player's offensive contributions have gotten better than sophomore guard Madeline Blais, who averaged just 2.8 points per game last season and, now, averages a team-best 15.8 ppg. thus far.

Leanne Ockenden's scoring average is up to 15.4, from 8.7 last year; Emma O'Connor is up from 9.0 to 13.3, Sydney Coffey is up to 10.3 from 7.3 and Dulin, who averaged 10.2 ppg. last year, is now averaging 12.7 in the three games since she returns and has solidified the point-guard position (5.7 assists per game).

Since the 1-4 start it was clear to see that Marist was making rapid strides, including a a 103-66 victory over a good Northeastern team (currently 6-4), the highest single-game total since coach Brian Giorgis took over the program 12 years ago.

Marist, though, does even better work on the defensive end. And, when Dulin drew an offensive foul from a driving Oklahoma player late in Saturday's contest, it all but secured the huge upset.

"It was a really great win, and I think it's something I'll always remember," Dulin told the Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper, afterwards.

Defense? It didn't hurt that the MAAC's reigning Defensive Player of the Year Ockenden held Oklahoma's Aaryn Ellenberg to 1-of-8 shooting from beyond the three-point line.Ellenberg had been 35-of-91 from bonus territory and was averaging 18.8 points per outing entering Saturday's contest. She was limited to just 12 points in the full 40 minutes, making just 5-of-19 total shots, against the Red Foxes.

A crowd of 1,904 turned out to watch the upset.

"It's great to give our fans this," Giorgis told reporters, afterwards. "I couldn't be more proud of a group of individuals ... from where we've come from the beginning of the year to now, the kids just seem to keep getting better and better."


Andy Scarano said...

How many other coaches would take the ball out of their best PGs hands and have their C/F take over the point and run the offense and at the same time have our guards post up in the paint? Who does that?

Steve Amedio said...

A very good coach, one who makes positive adjustments;