March 17, 2007
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) - Nobody will overlook Marist anymore. The Red Foxes would not be bullied into an early exit this March.
They drew offensive fouls and scrapped with a bigger, more physical Ohio State team, shocking the heavily favored Buckeyes 67-63 on Saturday night to reach the second round for the first time in school history.
Julianne Viani made six 3-pointers, including three in an 18-5 second-half run that also featured a 3 by Meg Dahlman, and finished with 24 points as Marist (28-5) earned a Monday night date with Middle Tennessee and the Blue Raiders' nation-long 27-game winning streak.
"The feeling, I can't describe it in words," Viani said. "I definitely felt it. We all just had such a peace and they were falling."
Viani converted two free throws with 18.1 seconds left after Ohio State cut the lead to three, then Ashlee Trebilcock hit a long 3 on the other end for the Buckeyes. Nikki Flores swished a pair of free throws for Marist with 8.2 seconds to go and her team secured a loose ball as the buzzer sounded - sending off a wild celebration at midcourt.
It was a monumental night for the little-known Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, which had been 0-21 in the tournament under its current membership before the 13th-seeded Red Foxes put the league on the map in the school's third NCAA trip in four years under fifth-year coach Brian Giorgis.
"It's the best win in our school's history," Giorgis said. "Just a tremendous job to beat a top-10 school. They believed. I looked in every single one of their eyes, and they believed. ... It's the true dream season thus far."
Trebilcock scored 23 points for the Buckeyes (28-4), who got a quiet 13 points, five rebounds and two assists from three-time Big Ten player of the year Davenport - a 6-foot-5 senior who stayed home in Columbus for college but had her farewell run end earlier than she planned.
Davenport committed 11 turnovers.
"We weren't playing like ourselves and I have to take the blame for that," Davenport said. "I know this team depends on me a lot and I didn't play the game I'm capable of playing."
Viani, who came in with a team-best 33 3s, shot 6-for-10 from long range for the Red Foxes from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., who won their seventh straight and 19th in 20 - and has held their opponents under 60 points in all of those victories. The team's lone loss during that stretch came at Loyola on Feb. 16, 62-55, and Marist was conference champion for the fourth straight year.
Marist suffered first-round defeats in 2004 and '06 - losing by double digits to No. 3 seeds Oklahoma and Georgia in those years. Pulling off Saturday's biggest upset might be enough to erase all that.
"We just got sick and tired of people underestimating us," said Dahlman, who finished with seven points and four steals and earned kudos for standing her ground against Ohio State star Jessica Davenport. "They definitely played physical down low, but it's all about staying within yourself."
The Red Foxes drew three offensive fouls in the second half and forced fourth-seeded Ohio State into poor decisions down the stretch and 23 total turnovers.
Rachele Fitz, Marist's leading scorer and rebounder averaging 15 points and 6.4 rebounds, made back-to-back baskets to tie it at 49 with 10:05 to play, then Viani gave the Red Foxes their first lead of the half on a 3-pointer from the top of the arc on their next possession.
Sarah Smrdel hit consecutive 3s early in the second half and scored eight straight in the stretch on the way to 10 points, and Marist overcame a 40-22 disadvantage on the boards. Ohio State held a 30-11 rebounding edge midway through the second half.
Dahlman, Marist's junior center, returned with 15:49 remaining after going down hard and hitting the back of her head on the floor with 3:49 left in the first half. She had been trying to catch a pass when her footing was taken out.
Davenport threw an early elbow in the face of Dahlman, who quickly informed the officials. With about 7 minutes left in the half, Dahlman went to the floor and drew an offensive foul that sent Davenport to the bench with her second personal. Davenport was whistled for another offensive foul in the second half and Tamarah Riley had one on Ohio State's next time down at 9:37 - and Dahlman pumped her fist.
"She means everything to us," Giorgis said. "You saw when she went out we struggled. We know we're not going anywhere without her. The job she did guarding Jessica was tremendous."
Dahlman got help defending Davenport from Alisa Kresqe, who had eight assists, three steals and four rebounds.
The Red Foxes came out cold, shooting 9-for-23 to start, but stayed close despite the Buckeyes making 11 of their first 15 shots because Marist forced 12 first-half turnovers and only committed five.
"They played a terrific game - a lot of intensity, a lot of heart," Ohio State coach Jim Foster said. "They showed a lot of character."
The teams' combined 55 wins entering the game were the most of any first-round women's matchup.