The Marist women's basketball team's hopes of adding another NCAA Tournament upset victory to its resume got derailed by a bigger, faster, better opponent that played a style similar to the Red Foxes and was doing so on its home court.
For the first time in its run of 10 NCAA tournament appearances in the last 11 years, that has included five victories in the national post-season event, Marist had to play on the opposition's home court.
Who knows if that was a factor, but host Iowa appeared more than comfortable in the friendly confines of its on-campus Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.
Comfortable? Against a Marist defense that entered Sunday night's game allowing just 59.3 points per game, Iowa put up 87 in its 87-65 victory.
The total not only was the highest single-game output by a Marist opponent this season, but the most points the Red Foxes have allowed in a game since Penn scored 91 against Marist midway through the 2002-03 season, the first year of coach Brian Giorgis' tenure at the school and 380 games ago.
Iowa did it with a combination of an effective 6-foot-4 inside player in inside player in Bethany Doolittle, stellar perimeter shooting and a standout point guard in Samantha Logic, who delivered the ball to open teammates (10 assists).
Doolittle, a handful inside no matter which Marist player defended her, had 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Senior guard Taylor Theairra had a team-high 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting including 5-of-8 from three-point territory.
The Hawkeyes overall shot 57.1 percent from the field for the game and 62.1 percent in the second half that stymied Marist's hopes of rallying back from an eight-point halftime deficit.
The Red Foxes did pull within five, 47-42, early in the second half after guards Sydney Coffey sank a trey and senior Leanne Ockenden followed with a two-pointer.
But the winners then sank consecutive three pointers, grabbed a 55-44 advantage within the next two minutes and never led by less than double figures again.
“That's one thing that stinks about playing on a (team’s) home court," said Marist coach Brian Giorgis, in post-game interviews available via the internet. "(It’s) one of the biggest differences in the tournament in the women's game and the men's game. In the men's game, you don't have that.
"We still haven't beaten anybody on their home court. This is the first time it was a first round game. I don't think it's going to change any time soon. It's what you play with. It's what you live with, but I think if we played on Mars, I think Iowa would have beaten us the way they shot the ball.”
Iowa's entire team shot well against Marist. All five of its starters scored in double figures
Marist didn't shoot poorly (41.4 percent from the floor), but the Red Foxes too often were limited to taking perimeter shots. Marist only made 8-of-30 tries from three-point territory in the contest.
“I thought we played well early. They were just relentless,” said Giorgis, in post-game interviews.
“It's the nightmare that you are afraid of when they have all five people that can score, and four of them shoot the 3, and one of them is a stud inside. What do you take away?”
“But hats off to Iowa because they shot the hell out of the ball, especially in the second half. You could tell our kids are pretty frustrated. ‘What do we do?’ You tip your hat to them.
“People forget they're a little bit more athletic than we are. Again, the frustrating part is they've got three excellent 3 point shooters and a first team, all-Big Ten stud (Doolittle) in the middle. I think our kids got frustrated. Our real big kids just couldn't guard Doolittle inside. I think that was the frustrating part because sometimes when you get in those situations, you forget that she likes to go right a lot. We kept getting beat right. She'd fake left and go right.”
Iowa was ranked 19th nationally in the most recent Associated Press Top 25 poll. Marist finishes its season at 27-7.
The contest was Marist's ninth consecutive NCAA appearance, and 10th overall.
Marist's senior class including point guard Casey Dulin, forward Emma O'Connor, and guard Leanne Ockenden, combined for 110
career victories and two NCAA Tournament wins in their four seasons. The senior
class lost just three Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) games in four
years and won the MAAC championship in all four of their seasons.