NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. - Marist wraps up its Buffalo trip with a much-anticipated matchup with Niagara at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. This will be the first time the two teams have met since the 2012 MAAC Semifinals when the top-seeded Red Foxes overcame a 13-point deficit midway through the second half before outscoring the fifth-seeded Purple Eagles 16-2 in overtime to escape with a 68-54 victory. Sunday's game can be heard on the Red Fox Network as well as WKIP 1450 AM - Poughkeepsie with Geoff Brault giving the call. The pregame show will begin at 1:45.
Marist is 8-0 this season and 23-1 in the past two seasons when scoring at least 60 points.
The Red Foxes are looking to start 6-0 in the MAAC for the eighth consecutive season. Overall, Marist has won 15 straight conference games, including the postseason, dating back to last Feb. 4 at Manhattan.
The Red Foxes have not trailed since early in the first half against Fairfield on Jan. 6.
Marist is currently 40th in the NCAA RPI rankings. The next highest team from the MAAC is Fairfield at 126th.
As a team, Marist is seventh in the country in free-throw percentage (.778).
Kristina Danella is just 32 points away from reach 1,000 for her career. The first 616 of her points came in her freshman and sophomore seasons when she was at UMass.
Emma O'Connor has already more than doubled her offensive output from a year ago, when she only scored 60 points. She has scored at least 10 points in eight of her past 11 starts including a career-high 18 points against #2 UConn on Nov. 23 and on Dec. 2 at #12 Oklahoma. She never reached double figures in her first two years
Junior Leanne Ockenden has already proven to be one of the best sharpshooters in Marist history. She is already in the top-10 at Marist for three-pointers made, currently sittiing at eighth all-time with 118. She sits one behind Melissa Hauser (119) for seventh. Jean-Marie Lesko holds the top spot on the chart with 249 made three-pointers.
SCOUTING THE PURPLE EAGLES
Niagara enters Sunday at 8-8 overall and 3-2 in the MAAC. The Purple Eagles, who were picked to finish second in the MAAC Coaches' Preseason Poll, have won conference games against Rider and Siena (in overtime) at home and defeated Saint Peter's on the road while falling to Iona and Fairfield.
The Purple Eagles are led offensively by Lauren Gatto, their only player in double figures in scoring with 14.0 PPG and is tops in the conference with a .500 shooting percentage. She also leads the team in rebounding with 6.3 RPG. Kayla Stroman, a high school teammate of Leanne Ockenden leads the confernce with 3.9 assists per game and has 38 steals on the season.
HISTORY LESSON - MARIST VS. NIAGARA
This will be the 32md meeting all-time between the Red Foxes and Purple Eagles and the first of two regular season matchups this year. The two teams will meet again next month on Feb. 15 back at McCann Arena in a game that will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU.
The Red Foxes have won the past six meetings going back to the 2009-10 season including wins in the 2010 MAAC Semifinals and last season's epic overtime semifinal matchup. In the regular season las year, the Red Foxes won an easy 63-44 decision at home but it took everything they had to win a 79-77 double overtime thriller at Niagara.
Last Time Out
Freshman Sydney Coffey (New Hope, Minn.) finished one rebound shy of her first career double-double, finishing with 12 points and nine rebounds as Marist held Canisius to just nine first half points and held on for a 51-41 victory Friday night in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) game.
Elizabeth Beynnon (Burlington, Vt.) had a team-high 14 points and also added five rebounds.
Casey Dulin (Milford, Conn.) was also in double figures with 12 points, shooting 8-11 from the free throw line.
Leanne Ockenden (Syracuse, N.Y.) had only four points but had six rebounds, three assists and for the second consecutive game tied her career-high with five steals.
As a team, Marist shot 23-31 from the free throw line while making 15 steals for the second straight game. The defense forced Canisius into 22 turnovers and just 13-50 shooting from the field.
After using eight different lineups all of last season, Head Coach Brian Giorgis has already used six different starting lineups this year.
The only two players that have stayed locked in the starting five are Leanne Ockenden at guard and Elizabeth Beynnon at forward.
Casey Dulin has started all but two games as she was not in the starting lineup versus Princeton due to back spasms and against Iona due to an excused absence from practice. Emma O'Connor has not started the past two games due to a wrist injury. Natalie Gomez started 10 consecutive games from Nov. 17 through Jan. 4. Kristina Danella has also made three starts, Kristine Best has made three and Sydney Coffey has 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.
For the first few weeks of the season, Marist had been ranked in the top 10 of the CollegeInsider.com Mid Major poll, but has dropped to #14 in this week's poll. The Red Foxes have reached as high as sixth 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 rankings, on Nov. 28, 85-70.
MUCH DESERVED CONTRACT EXTENSION
On Wednesday, Dec. 5, Marist Director of Athletics Tim Murray that head women's basketball coach Brian Giorgis has signed a contract extension through the 2020-21 season.
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 TOO FAMILIAR
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.
Also for the second straight year, Marist finished non-conference play under .500 with a 5-6 record. Last year, the Red Foxes went on to win 20 of their next 21 to claim their seventh straight MAAC Championship.
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.
Junior guard Casey Dulin (Milford. Conn.), redshirt sophomore forward Tori Jarosz (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.) and redshirt senior Kristina Danella (Manalapan, N.J.) were all named to the Third Team.
The trio of senior forward Elizabeth Beynnon (Burlington, Vt.) and junior guards Casey Dulin (Milford, Conn.) and Leanne Ockenden (Syracuse, N.Y.) will lead the 2012-13 Marist squad.
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' Preseason Poll. Leading that group is the University of Connecticut (#2), followed by Kentucky (#7), Oklahoma ((#14) and Purdue (#18).