LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Marist women's basketball team returns from Christmas break to play its final non-conference game when it travels to Lexington to play #7/6 Kentucky. It will be the fourth game of the season for the Red Foxes against a ranked opponent, all having been in the Top-15. Marist is looking for its second regular season win all-time against a ranked opponent and, with a win, will finish above .500 in non-conference play for the eighth time in the past nine years. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3 with Garry Gupton doing the play-by-play and Christi Thomas providing the color commentary.
Last Time Out
Marist, paced by four players in double figures, used a 13-4 run over the final 6:13 of the game to pull away at Yale for a 62-50 win on Thursday, Dec. 20. It was the first road win of the season for the Red Foxes.
Leanne Ockenden (Syracuse, N.Y.) led all players with 14 points on 7-10 shooting from the field. She also grabbed a season-high seven rebounds and set a personal best with five steals.
Casey Dulin (Milford, Conn.), playing in front of a large contingent of friends and family, scored 10 points, all in the first half, and had a game-high four assists.
Sydney Coffey (New Hope, Minn.) came off the bench and had 10 points including 4-5 from the free throw line.
Marist shot 46% (25-55) from the floor for the game, assisting on 16 of those made field goals, and outrebounded Yale 39-35.
For her efforts, Ockenden was named the MAAC Player of the Week on Monday. It was the first weekly award of her career and second of the season for the Red Foxes as Coffey was named the MAAC Rookie of the Week back on Nov. 19.
SCOUTING THE WILDCATS
Kentucky enters Sunday's matchup at 11-1 on the season and ranked seventh in the AP poll and sixth in the Coaches poll. The Wildcats' one loss came at the hand of defending national champions Baylor. They are coming off of a 90-23 victory over winless Alcorn State on Friday.
The 2012 Southeastern Conference (SEC) regular season champion Wildcats went 28-7 last season, earning a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Elite 8 before falling to UConn.
The Wildcats are led by three players in double figures in scoring - A'dia Mathies (13.6 PPG), DeNesha Stallworth (11.8 PPG) and Samarie Walker (10.3 PPG). Both Stallworth and Walker are also shooting above 50% from the floor for the season while Mathies is a 35.5% shooter from beyond the three-point arc. Walker also leads the team with an average of 8.3 rebounds per game while Stallworth is second at 5.7 boards per game. Mathies and Stallworth are also the top two in assists, averaging 2.4 and 2.3 assist per game, respectively. Walker leads Kentucky defensively with 30 steals and 20 blocks. Bria Gross is second with 22 steals while Stallworth also has 19 blocks.
HISTORY LESSON - MARIST VS. KENTUCKY
Thursday will be the second meeting all time between the two programs.
Their only other previous meeting came in the season opener of the 1993-94 season when Kentucky defeat Marist 96-65 in Lexington.
MARIST VS. THE SEC
Sunday is the only meeting of the regular season for Marist against an opponent from the SEC.
The Red Foxes are 2-9 all-time against the conference, but both of those wins came last season. They defeated Auburn 69-61 in the New York Life Holiday Invitational, presented by Hofstra. Marist then beat fourth-seeded Georgia in the NCAA Tournament by a 76-70 score. Three of the nine losses have come in the NCAA Tournament - Georgia in 2006, Tennessee in 2007 and LSU in 2008.
Marist is 1-16 all-time versus ranked opponents when the matchup has come during the regular season.
After not playing a ranked opponent in for the past two seasons, the Red Foxes have already played three top-25 teams this year, falling to #14/12 Purdue (71-50), #2 UConn (81-39) and #12 Oklahoma (68-55).
Their one win however came in their last game prior to this season when they beat #21 Nebraska 63-60 in the 2009-2010 season.
After using eight different lineups all of last season, Head Coach Brian Giorgis has already used five different starting lineups this year.
Casey Dulin has started all but one game as she was not in the starting five versus Princeton due to back spasms. Emma O'Connor did not play at Yale on Dec. 20 due to a sprained wrist. Natalie Gomez has started each game but the first two as the point. Kristina Danella has made two starts while Kristine Best and Sydney Coffey have all also made one start.
Coffey made her first career start in just her third career game, becoming the fastest player to join the starting lineup in Giorgis' tenure.
RANKED AMONGST THE MID-MAJORS
After receiving one vote in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Preseason Poll, the Red Foxes moved up to as many as seven votes after the first weekend of games.
Marist has been ranked all season in the top 10 of the CollegeInsider.com Mid Major poll, but in the latest rankings fell to #11. The Red Foxes have reached as high as sixth, their highest ranking of the season and are the only team from the MAAC in the Top-25.
Also making the list is Princeton at #8, who Marist defeated 56-45 on Nov. 17 in Poughkeepsie when the Tigers were ranked 4th. Hartford and Boston University, who have both beaten the Red Foxes, sit just ahead of Marist at #9 and #10, respectively. Marist also defeated Hofstra, who sits just outside the Top-25 and has been in and out of the the rankings, on Nov. 28, 85-70.
Beynnon has proven to be an accurate shooter in her two seasons as a starter. After finishing second in the MAAC last season with a .486 field goal percentage, Beynnon is shooting at a .435 clip so far this season, inlcuindg a .543 FG% over the past five games. She holds two of the top-ten spots for single game field goal percentage in Marist history. Against Wake Forest on 11/24, Beynnon hit an incredibe eight of nine (.889) shots from the field, good for a tie for fourth all-time. She knocked herself down a peg as last year, when she was known as Kelsey, she shot 10-12 (.833) from the field versus Canisius on Feb. 17 which is now tied for 9th all-time.
O'CONNOR FINDING HER STRIDE
After never reaching double digits in scoring in her first two-plus seasons, O'Connor has scored at least 10 points in five of her past six games. That includes a career-high 18 points against #2 UConn on Nov. 23, which she also tied on Dec. 2 at #12 Oklahoma. She has already surpassed her scoring total from last season.
OCKENDEN ALREADY INTO THE BOOKS
With her four three-pointers against Hofstra, Ockenden put herself into the Top-10 all-time at Marist for three-pointers made. She currently sits at 110 for her career, putting her ninth all-time at Marist. She sits six treys behind Nina Vecchio (116) for eighth. Jean-Marie Lesko holds the top spot on the chart with 249 made three-pointers.
TALE OF TWO DULINS
After shooting .286 in the Red Foxes first five games, Dulin has gone 24-53 (.453) the past five games, averaging 13.0 PPG in that span, including a career-high 25-point performance against Hofstra on Nov. 28.
DANELLA THE IDEAL 6th MAN
Fifth-year senior Kristina Danella has proven to be valuable in any role, leading the Red Foxes this season with 5.1 RPG and is fifth in scoring at 8.3 PPg. While coming off the bench for the most of her two seasons at Marist, Danella has made eight starts for the Red Foxes inlcuding two this season Nov. 9 vs. Vermont and Dec. 20 at Yale. In those eight starts, Danella is averaging 10.4 PPG while shooting 54% (27-50) from the field and 50% (12-24) from three-point range. She is also averaging 5.4 RPG and is 17-20 (85%) from the free throw line.
EARLY MORNING COFFEY
Following her performance on Nov. 17 versus Princeton, in just her third career game, freshman Sydney Coffey was named the MAAC Rookie of the Week.
On defense, Coffey was in charge of covering 2012 All-American Niveen Rasheed and held her to just 3-17 shooting for the game and forced her into five turnovers. Offensively, Coffey scored 13 points for the Red Foxes while more than doubling her previous career-high with 31 minutes.
It was the first weekly award of Coffey's young career and first on the season for the Red Foxes.
MUCH DESERVED CONTRACT EXTENSION
Murray on contract: "Brian has established our program as a consistent Top-40 team in the country. I'm thrilled with the idea of him spending his entire collegiate coaching career here at Marist. He's a special coach, and a special person. And I am excited that he will provide the Hudson River Valley excellent women's college basketball for many years."
Giorgis on contract: "I can't thank Marist College enough for offering me this extension and having the faith in me to lead this program into the next decade. We may not be a BCS program, but the support by both the administration and community is comparable or better than any BCS program in the country. I am truly humbled and appreciative of what Marist College has done for me during my tenure here and I thank God every day for bringing me here to Marist to be a part of this special community. I am truly blessed."
THE BIG 5-0-0
With the first two wins of this season, 66-45 over Vermont and 56-45 over Princeton. the Marist women's basketball program now stands at 500 wins since becoming a Division I program in the 1981-1982 season
Of those 500 wins, 253 belong to Giorgis.
ALL TO FAMILIAR AT 1-1
This season marks the third straight year, and eighth time in Head Coach Brian Giorgis' 11-year career, that the Red Foxes have started off with a 1-1 record.
FIVE NAMED PRESEASON ALL-MAAC
On Thursday, Nov. 1, the Red Foxes had a league-high five players named to the 2012 All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).
This is the sixth consecutive year the Red Foxes had three or more players selected to be on the Pre-Season All-MAAC teams.
Junior guard Leanne Ockenden (Syracuse, N.Y.) was named to the First Team and is now up for MAAC Preseason Player of the Year, which will be announced during Friday's Award Show.
Senior forward Elizabeth Beynnon (Burlington, Vt.) was selected to the Second Team.
Giorgis on his three captains: "I am very happy that we have three members of our team that are capable of being quality leaders," Giorgis said. "Elizabeth, Casey and Leanne all started for us last year and were a big reason for our success. We will count on their veteran leadership this season both on and off the court to lead us in our challenging upcoming season."
MARIST SELECTED TO FINISH FIRST
For the sixth consecutive season, the Red Foxes were picked to finish first in the MAAC Preseason Coaches' Poll, announced Friday at the MAAC Preseason Awards Show which was held at McCann Arena and aired on ESPN3.
Marist was the unanimous choice, with all 10 of the first-place votes.
YET ANOTHER TOUGH SCHEDULE
The Red Foxes continue their recent trend of playing some of the nation's best competition in the non-conference portion of their schedule.
This season's slate featuring teams from five of the six power conferences and five of the 11 teams played in last year's NCAA Tournament while four others participated in the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).
Included in the non-conference schedule are four teams that are ranked in the top 20 of the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll. Leading that group is the University of Connecticut (#2), followed by Kentucky (#7), Oklahoma ((#14) and Purdue (#18).