COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The 12th-seeded Marist women’s basketball team kicks off its eight consecutive NCAA Tournament with a First Round game on Saturday, March 23, at 1:30 p.m. against fifth-seeded Michigan State of the Big Ten conference. The game will be played at the Comcast Center on the campus of the University of Maryland. The game can be seen in select areas on ESPN2. The talent for the game will be Marc Kestecher on play-by-play and LaChina Robinson providing color commentary. Fans can also listen to the game on the Red Fox Network as well as on the radio on WKIP 1450 AM - Poughkeepsie. Geoff Brault will be providing play-by-play alongside color analyst Kristy Nix. A special 30-minute pregame show will begin at 1:00 PM.
LAST TIME OUT
Marist won its eighth straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship, and ninth in program history, with a 72-48 victory over Iona on Monday. The championship total ties the all-time conference record held by Saint Peter’s.
The Red Foxes had four double-digit scorers against the Gaels. Elizabeth Beynnon had 15 points, followed by Casey Dulin and freshman guard Sydney Coffey with 12. Dulin was just shy of a triple-double with nine assists and eight rebounds. Junior forward Emma O’Connor added 11 points, and tied Dulin for the team lead with eight boards.
Leanne Ockenden, the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, held Iona’s Damika Martinez, the MAAC Player of the Year, to just four points on 2-9 shooting from the field and four turnovers.
Marist finished with 24 assists on 26 made field goals, including on each of the first 17 baskets.
Beynnon was named MAAC Tournament Most Valuable Player. Junior guards Dulin and Ockenden were selected to the MAAC All-Tournament Team.
SCOUTING THE SPARTANS
Michigan State enters the NCAA Tournament with a 24-8 overall record after going 10-6 in the Big Ten. The Spartans earned the fourth seed in the Big Ten Tournament where they defeated #5 Michigan in the quarterfinals 67-40 before upsetting the top seed, Penn State, 76-66 in the semifinals. They fell to #3 Purdue in the Big Ten Championship game, 62-47.
The Spartans are led by head coach Suzy Merchant who is in her sixth season at the helm. She has compiled a 139-61 record at Michigan State and is 340-181 in 18 season as a head coach.
Michigan State is led by two players averaging in double figures. Klarissa Bell leads the way, averaging 11.1 PPG and Jasmine Thomas is right behind her at 10.4 PPG. The Spartans are a well-balanced team as five other players are averaging at least 6.2 PPG and four players have at least 75 assists on the season. Courtney Schiffauer leads the team in rebounding, grabbing 6.1 RPG. Bell is right behind her with 5.9 RPG while Thomas (5.3 RPG) and Jasmine Hines (5.0 RPG) also crash the boards.
As a team, Michigan State is similar to the Red Foxes as they play with a powerful defensive strategy. The Spartans rank 11th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 51.6 PPG while Marist is 17th at 52.2 PPG.
HISTORY LESSON - MARIST VS. MICHIGAN STATE
This will be the first ever meeting between the Red Foxes and Spartans.
MARIST VS. THE BIG TEN
Saturday will be the second meeting of the season for Marist versus a Big Ten opponent. The Red Foxes faced eventual Big Ten Champion Purdue back on Nov. 22 at the Paradise Jam Tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Marist fell to the then #14/12 Boilermakers 71-50.
Overall, Marist is 3-3 all-time against opponents from the current Big Ten Conference. They have beaten Nebraska twice and beat Ohio State in 2007 in the NCAA Tournament First Round. When they defeated Nebraska on Dec. 19, 2010 in the Dual in the Desert Tournament in Las Vegas, it was the only regular season win for the Red Foxes against a ranked opponent as the Cornhuskers were ranked #21.The Red Foxes also fell once to the Buckeyes and lost once against Minnesota.
THE REST OF MARIST’S BRACKET
Preceding Marist’s game on Saturday, the region’s host, fourth-seeded Maryland will be playing #13 Quinnipiac at 11:15 a.m. The winner of Saturday’s First Round and Monday’s Second Round games will head to Bridgeport, Conn. for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. That regional will be hosted by Fairfield and the MAAC.
Marist reached the 25-win plateau for the seventh consecutive season with its MAAC semifinal 61-36 victory over Niagara.
Marist is on a 21-game winning streak, making it the 11th time they have had a winning streak of 10 or more games under Giorgis. They have done so in every season since 2004-05 season, including two separate streaks in 2008-09 and 2011-12. The 21 games is also the sixth longest streak in the country. Among the five teams ahead of Marist are #1 Baylor, #2 Notre Dame, #15 Delaware and #20 Green Bay.
This is the third time The Red Foxes have won at least 20 in a row under Giorgis. They reached 27 games in 2010-11 and had a 22-game streak in 2007-08.
The Red Foxes have won the past seven games by a margin of 20 points or more. That is the longest such streak under Giorgis.
Marist is 23-0 this year and 38-1 in the past two seasons when scoring at least 60 points. The Red Foxes are also 23-0 this season when leading at halftime.
Marist is currently 43rd in the latest NCAA RPI rankings. The Red Foxes are also receiving 18 votes in the ESPN/USA Today’s Coaches’ poll, the highest total of teams not in the Top-25 and two votes in the AP Top-25 poll.
This marks the first time since 2007 that Marist has not had the MAAC Player of the Year or someone selected to the All-MAAC First Team. That was the year Marist advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.
Junior Leanne Ockenden has 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 sitting seventh all-time with 145. Next up is former teammate and 2012 MAAC Player of the Year Corielle Yarde (173). Jean-Marie Lesko holds the top spot on the chart with 249 made.
AWARDS AND MILESTONES THIS SEASON
On Nov. 17, in a 56-45 home victory over Princeton, Marist reached the milestone of 500 wins as a Division I program. Of those 500 wins, 253 of them belonged to Brian Giorgis
With the Red Foxes 69-44 win over Rider on Feb. 22, Marist reached the 20-win plateau for the 10th consecutive season.
On Friday, Feb. 1 versus Canisius, Kristina Danella became the 19th player to score her 1,000th career point in a Marist uniform, doing so on a three-pointer at the 9:21 mark of the first half. The first 616 points came in her first two seasons when she was at UMass.
On Thursday, Nov. 1, Marist had a league-high five players named to the 2012 All-MAAC Preseason Teams, marking 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 was named to the First Team, senior forward Elizabeth Beynnon was selected to the Second Team and junior guard Casey Dulin, redshirt sophomore forward Tori Jarosz and redshirt senior Kristina Danella were all named to the Third Team.
During the season, Marist earned six MAAC Weekly Awards, as a Red Fox was named a Player of the Week on three occasions and the Rookie of the Week three times.
Sydney Coffey was named the Rookie of the Week after making her first career start versus Princeton, which entered the game ranked fourth in the country amongst mid-major schools. She scored 13 points and shut down 2012 All-American Niveen Rasheed, holding her to just 3-17 shooting for the game and forced her into five turnovers.
Leanne Ockenden earned her first career weekly award when she was named the MAAC Player of the Week on Dec. 24 following a game at Yale where she scored 14 points on 7-10 shooting, had seven rebounds and set a career-high with five steals.
Coffey earned her second Rookie of the Week selection on Jan. 21 after averaging 14 points and 5.5 rebounds at Canisius and Niagara. She shot 50% from both the field and three-point range, went 14-15 from the free throw line and had a 3.0 assist-turnover ratio. She scored a career-high 16 points, including 9-9 from the free throw line, against Niagara and grabbed a career-high nine rebounds against Canisius.
Emma O’Connor was named the MAAC Co-Player of the Week on Jan. 28 after scoring a career-high 20 points in front of a national, ESPN3 audience at Manhattan. She tied a personal best with eight made field goals, shooting 8-10 from the field. O’Connor shared the award with Rider’s MyNeshia McKenzie.
Coffey and Casey Dulin swept the awards on Feb. 25 as Coffey earned her third Rookie of the Week award of the season and Dulin was named Player of the Week for the first time of her career. Dulin had a career weekend against Rider and Loyola, averaging 22.5 points per game and shooting 62.5% from the floor and 60% from three-point range. She reached the 20-point plateau in both games, tying a career-high with 25 points against Rider and dropping 20 against Loyola. Coffey averaged nine points and 4.5 rebounds in the same games, including tying her career-high with 16 points at Loyola.
On Monday, March 4, Marist had a league-high five members named to All-MAAC postseason teams. While the Red Foxes did not have anyone on the First Team, and therefore eligible for MAAC Player of the Year, Casey Dulin and Elizabeth Beynnon were selected to the Second Team while Leanne Ockenden and Emma O’Connor were on the Third Team. Freshman Sydney Coffey was selected to the All-Rookie Team.
Leanne Ockenden was named the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year. It was the fourth time Marist has had a Defensive Player of the Year and Ockenden becomes just the second Red Fox to win the award. Marist assistant coach Alisa Kresge (class of 2007) earned the honor in three straight years, sharing the title in 2005 and winning it outright in 2006 and 2007.
Kristina Danella was named the MAAC Sixth Player of the Year. She became the third Marist player to be named the Sixth Player of the Year, joining Lynzee Johnson in 2008 and Kristin Keller in 2004.
Giorgis was named MAAC Coach of the Year for a record seventh time in his 11-year career after guiding the Red Foxes to an undefeated 18-0 MAAC regular season.
DEFENSE IS IMPROVING
After a grueling non-conference schedule, where Marist played four teams in the top-15, the Red Foxes defense entered MAAC play on Jan. 3 ranked 216th nationally in scoring defense with an average of 63.3 points per game.
In the 18 games against MAAC opponents, the defense has jumped 194 spots, ranking 22nd on March 5, giving up just 53.0 points per game.
The Red Foxes only allowed 44.7 PPG in their three MAAC Tournament games and now rank 17th nationally in scoring defense with an overall average of 52.2 PPG.
In conference games this season, Marist allowed just 46.6 points per game – an average of 8.5 points per game better than the next-best team (Fairfield).
Marist has finished the season in the top 50 in the country in scoring defense the previous eight years, including a #1 ranking in the 2010-11 season. Marist is currently 22nd in the country in this category after being ranked 216th on Jan. 3.
NAILING THEIR FREE THROWS
The Red Foxes not only led the MAAC, but also rank fifth in the country in free-throw percentage at .790.
Casey Dulin just misses the minimum to qualify but her .798 (79-99) percentage would put her at 96th.
Even though she has only played at Marist for two seasons, Danella already qualifies to rank first all-time in program history in free throw percentage, having gone 162-181 (.895). She has hit her last 26 free throws dating back to Feb. 17 versus Manhattan, a span of seven games.
STRONG TO THE BASKET
Marist has gone to the charity stripe 43 times (1.3/game) this year with the opportunity to complete a three-point play and have completed 32 of those chances.
Elizabeth Beynnon leads the way with 10 “And One” opportunities, completing the task eight times. Sydney Coffey is a near-perfect 9-10 and Casey Dulin and Kristina Danella have converted six such opportunities, respectively. Emma O’Connor is also 4-5 on the season.
Last season, in 34 games, the Red Foxes went 33-45 in these situations, attempting 1.3 three-point plays per game.
After using eight different lineups all of last season, Head Coach Brian Giorgis has also used eight different starting lineups this year.
Casey Dulin has started all but three games. She did not start Nov. 17 versus Princeton due to back spasms, Jan. 13 against Iona due to an excused absence from practice or March 1 versus Saint Peter’s because of Senior Day.
Emma O’Connor did not start two games, Dec. 20 at Yale and Dec. 31 at Kentrucky, due to a wrist injury. She also missed the March 1 game versus Saint Peter’s due to concussion symptoms.
Coffey made her first career start in just her third career game, becoming the fastest player to join the starting lineup in Giorgis’ tenure.
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.”
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.”
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 featured 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 were four teams that are ranked in the top-15 of the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Preseason Poll. Leading that group was the University of Connecticut (#2), followed by Kentucky (#7/6), Oklahoma (#12) and Purdue (#14/12).