Approaching the end of a disappointing, injury-riddled season, the Marist College men’s basketball team isn’t stumbling to the finish line; they’re sprinting.
The Red Foxes won their second straight game and fourth in six games on Friday night with a 76-74 victory over rival Siena at the Times Union Center in Albany.
The win secured Marist’s place for next week’s Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament — the Red Foxes will play at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a game featuring the No. 8 and 9 seeds. Coach Chuck Martin, however, said seeding, and Marist’s 20 losses in 28 games heading into Friday night, was not the topic of conversation leading up to the game.
“We’ve had some injuries. With those injuries, we did not have the season we thought we would have,” he said, noting he told his team, “Let’s not worry about last week, last month, let’s make this a seven-game season beginning with (last Saturday’s) VMI game.
“Right now, we’re 2-0.”
The seventh game, of course, would take Marist to the tournament final. On Friday, the Red Foxes played like a team determined to play all seven.
In a game in which neither team took larger than a seven-point advantage, the Red Foxes’ spoiled the Saints’ Senior Night by making enough free throws down the stretch.
Leading, 72-71, with 20 seconds remaining, senior guard Devin Price knocked down a pair. After Chavaughn Lewis rebounded an Evan Hymes miss on the other end, Lewis made one of two to give Marist a two-possession lead and hold off the Saints.
On Jan. 27, Marist had faltered late and lost a similar game with Siena in Poughkeepsie, 79-75.
Of the nip-and-tuck win, Martin said, “It says that we’ve grown. We’re not the same team as three weeks ago. We’ve come together at the right time.
“I know I sound like I’m beating a dead horse, but we got Devin Price and Jay Bowie back,” Martin said of the two Red Foxes who missed significant time due to injury this year. “When you have those guys, two upperclassmen on the road, on Senior Night, you have a chance to win.”
Bowie played a key defensive role on Friday night, doubling down to help center Adam Kemp defend Siena’s senior star O.D. Anosike, Whereas the Saint posted 20 points and 21 rebounds in Poughkeepsie without Bowie present, Marist held him to 16 points and nine rebounds the second time around. Martin said the entire team prepared to rotate down to double-team Anosike this week.
“Adam did a great job just on the initial set to physically impose his will on O.D.,” Martin said, “and Jay Bowie — you can’t put a price tag on him. He’s smart. He’s intelligent. He knows where to go, when to go, how to rotate.”
Kemp had five blocks. On the other end, the junior was Marist’s main source of offense, hitting 10 of his 14 shots for 24 points, to go with 14 rebounds — seven on the offensive end.
“He’s unbelievable,” Martin said. “Tonight — it’s a shame that our fans did not get a chance to watch our team play, but certainly it’s a shame that they couldn’t watch Adam. … Adam Kemp was out of his mind tonight.”
Martin noted also, though, the importance of his guards delivering Kemp the ball in the paint, including Isaiah Morton, who finished with seven assists, Price and Lewis.
Off the bench, Price scored 18 points in 34 minutes, hitting four of six shots from behind the 3-point arc, while Lewis scored 17. Bowie finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
As a team, Marist made 54-percent of its shots.
Marist finishes its regular-season slate with its own Senior Day against Fairfield on Sunday at McCann Arena.