Photo by USA Today Sports.
Just the Facts, Ma'am: 25 turnovers doomed the Iona Gaels at the McCann Center, as Marist pulled away early to claim a 69-55 victory. Emma O'Connor led the Red Foxes with 16 points, while Casey Dulin added nine of her 13 in the second half. Damika Martinez of Iona led all scorers with 17 points, but she and Joy Adams, with 14, were the only Gaels in double figures. For impressive paneling, a flurry of staff, lots of turnovers, howling hyenas, second-hand embarrassment, bad Gaelic, and smart coaching, join your intrepid and squeaky blogger after the jump.
Good afternoon, everyone! We're coming to you on tape delay from the genuinely gorgeous McCann Center on the grounds of Marist College. Seriously, this is pretty much the epitome of what a college arena should look like and feel like. The seats are comfortable, the wood paneling is cozy, all the amenities are available, people are already trickling in at a steady rate even more than an hour before the game- you know it's going to be a good crowd, and believe me, it's also a loud crowd. About the only thing I might have done differently is pick a different color for the seats. I'd be at a lot more Marist games if train fare weren't $31.50 round-trip. But it makes for a nice expedition.
Whoever picked out the music is a Lady Gaga fan. We could definitely have done worse. I'm serious, the only thing I don't love about the McCann Center is that it's so far away from me.
At half, it's 30-18 in Marist's favor, and it could be a lot worse for the Gaels. They've been called for something like four or five offensive fouls, and I can only really argue the last one. Marist has done a fantastic job of staying just outside the circle and drawing charges. Iona's gotten very timid, taking a lot of outside shots and not going strong when they do drive. There's way too much dribbling going on. Haley D'Angelo has been stripped twice, badly- but the offense has looked even worse when she's out of the game. Move without the ball! It's not that hard, is it?
They just did a presentation for the alumnae, so I had to pause and applaud for Élise Caron and Corielle Yarde. They brought in a few of the ladies from the '80s as well, which is awesome.
I'm also enjoying the wrinkle in the game of musical chairs- when the music stops, the players have to run and hit a lay-up before they can sit down. Keeps them from fighting over the chairs. Though with that much extra work, you'd think they'd give them more than just a t-shirt.
The Iona fans behind us are loud, which I appreciate as someone who 's cheering for Iona, but if we meet again at Carnesecca Arena, there are probably going to be words, and most of them are probably going to start with F.
I kind of wish the Marist fans would get more into it, though. I feel like we shouldn't be the loudest people in the arena. It didn't help that there was a very loud Iona contingent directly behind us; if you listened to their point of view, you'd swear that Marist traveled every time they touched the ball and Iona should have gotten free throws on every shot. I was starting to get embarrassed that people would think I was affiliated with them. Swearing in front of a two-year-old is uncouth, and suggesting that the Marist booster club paid off the refs is a recipe for trouble. The Marist event staffers assigned to our section looked so stressed out that I wanted to give them cookies.
Shonice Hawkins brought a nice little spark off the bench in the second half, nabbing a steal and getting to the line. She got called for a couple of ticky-tack fouls, which is probably going to be the recurring theme of these notes. I do not know why Jiya Dorcas-Eya was in the game at the juncture she first came in during- okay, objectively I do, because Sabrina Jeridore needed to be yelled at, and there were too many tall Red Foxes on the floor for Iona to consider going small. But she was pretty clearly in over her head. Either Cassidee Ranger needs to be more aggressive in calling for her shot or her teammates have to have more confidence giving her the ball. I can think of at least two plays where she was so wide open in the corner that calling her the Lone Ranger wouldn't have been that bad a pun. At this point in her young collegiate career, that's her specialty; why on earth wouldn't you play to it, especially when your game plan seems to be relying heavily on jumpers? I'll be more impressed with her if her rebounding continues, and if she can perform that little poke-check consistently on the defensive end. I think Diana Hubbard only came in near the end of the game, and she took a three that almost should have gone in. I think. I'm working off memory without much of a box score to back me up. Aleesha Powell played well in heavy rotation off the bench, though she got nailed by the ticky-tack foul monster as well. She's fast- she's got to stay closer on defense, though.
I think Joy Adams got frustrated with the officiating, and the Marist defense, and not being able to get the shots she wanted, and I think it got to her. She really didn't step up in this game until it was essentially done, when the only thing she could do was keep the margin from exploding any further after Damika Martinez picked up her fourth foul and had to play more tentatively. Then suddenly her shots were going down and she was getting to the line, and she was able to get on the boards. I don't know what was up with Haley D'Angelo's head today, but she didn't play well at all. She spent way too much time dribbling, and doing so unsteadily. She kept losing her dribble to Marist defenders because she was too slow. Damika Martinez got nailed with some tough second half calls, including a technical for a shoving match with Kristina Danella. I think her teammates were expecting her to carry too much of the load, even when she was being doubled or tripled, and she was trying too hard to make something happen by herself. (Which was a general problem for Iona. Way too much standing around and trying to figure out what they should do.) Sabrina Jeridore needed to be more aggressive- the play where Dorcas-Eya came in was after Jeridore kicked out what should have been an easy putback. We're talking "not even thinking of shooting" when even the most timid post would have put that ball back towards the basket and at least attempted to draw a foul. She got yelled at very thoroughly on the bench for that one, and she was a little tougher the rest of the game. She's always been tough on defense when I've seen her, but she was just a little more determined on the boards. Aaliyah Robinson didn't stand out, except I think she was one of the Gaels with a nice little lay-up that got taken off the board because of a block/charge call.
Natalie Gomez mostly got her minutes when the lead seemed insurmountable- when Marist was up big in the first half and at the end of the game. Casey Dulin came off the bench in the first half, but started in the second, and in the second she was more of a sparkplug than she was in the first, penetrating into the lane and getting shots that made the crowd cheer. I think one was an and-1, but I'd have to cross-reference with a play-by-play, and on the Hudson River line, Internet's a bit of an issue. But she made things happen for them whenever Iona seemed to be getting close. Madeline Blais played a fair bit in the first half, hit a couple of free throws, and was generally tall and rather inconvenient to the Iona players. Kristina Danella did a good job of drawing fouls and getting to the line. Something around her face and her shoulders and her three-point shot reminds me a little of Cathrine Kraayeveld, albeit with much darker hair and less inclination to jack up threes at the drop of a hat.
Kristine Best was another player who managed to make things happen, whether it was with her shot or with her passing. She seemed to be everywhere at once. Very fast, very smart, ran a good game. I was expecting to be more impressed with Sydney Coffey, since she's a freshman who managed to crack Brian Giorgis's starting lineup, but she really didn't seem to be much of a factor, at least on offense. I did manage to chart three first-half rebounds, a block, and a nice defensive play before I realized I was not made to chart rebounds and still watch the game, so maybe he brought her in for her defense. Leanne Ockenden had a couple of twos go in and out on her, clearly demonstrating that she needs to stick to the thing that she's so good at- the three-point shot that's gotten her into the Marist record books and climbing the list. Emma O'Connor was a match-up nightmare for Iona- tall with the mindset of a shooter. She exploited the mismatch well. Elizabeth Beynnon (the artist formerly known as Kelsey; to confuse everyone even more, the PA guy calls her El) got going in the second half, hitting the boards and slipping behind the Iona defense for lay-ups.
Two things impressed me about Marist as a team: their quick hands on defense, low and fast moving, and their positioning on drives to the lane. We screamed and wailed about the constant stream of charges being laid against the Gaels, but for the most part, Marist cleverly positioned themselves just outside the tiny collegiate charge circle and got set. I wasn't completely certain on a couple; of course, the folks behind us were dead certain that they were all lies and part of a greater conspiracy to hand Marist the game without them having to work for it. But I have the utmost respect for Giorgis as a coach, and it fascinates me when you can actually see the little things being done. It's rare in this game, unfortunately.
T-shirt throwing tour guides! With the band and the cheerleaders still on winter break, Marist was a bit short of people to throw t-shirts to the audience. So while they were advertising Walkway over the Hudson, they had the trail "ambassadors" throwing the shirts. They did not seem terribly enthusiastic about it, but they went through the motions well enough. The guys from the pizza joint who threw shirts in the second half were a bit more experienced.
The officiating got both coaches steamed, and I think Bozella had the greater case, but not by as much as the partisans behind us believed. I feel bad for Cassidee Ranger, who got bodied back into her own bench with no call while touch fouls were being assessed against Iona on the other end. Some of the bad calls started to go against Marist in the second half, but that wasn't so much making the officiating more accurate as it was making it more balanced in its apparent disconnection from the basketball game being played at the time. What bothered me most was that there was a sudden spate of fouls called against Marist in the last two minutes of the game that had not been violations called earlier in the game, which made the aggregate totals look much more balanced than they were through most of the game. Believe me, I'm not going to say the Gaels were angels; I've seen their physicality too many times to believe that, though they were uncharacteristically timid today. The block/charge calls seemed fair to me. And I do think Iona has earned a reputation that's not going to get them any favors from the officials. But I did not think this crew called the game very well at all.
They kept the alumnae theme running through the second half, inviting them up for the timeout entertainment. It was adorable, in a strange way. Loyalty is a beautiful thing.
The rematch is going to be interesting. I'm sorry I'll have to miss it. But I still think Marist is going to have more of a fight in the MAAC than they have had in the past.