It was safe to say, yesterday, that West Virginia got the bigger piece of the wishbone against Marist in a game where nothing much went the Foxes’ way. Today, it was the Vanderbilt Commodores of the SEC who could not find anything on offense for 40 minutes against the Red Foxes.
This game had its fair share of firsts. This was the first meeting ever between Vanderbilt and Marist in men’s basketball. It was the first time Marist held an opponent under 40 points under Chuck Martin. Most importantly for the program, it was the first win under Chuck Martin against a “Power Six” conference opponent, which includes the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, and Pac-12.
The scoring began slowly, and the pace remained slow for the entire game. Early on, Len Elmore was questioning whether the teams were till feeling the effects of their Thanksgiving dinners the night before. However, after jumping out to an 8-0 lead over the first 5 minutes with scoring from Isaiah Morton, Devin Price, and Chavaughn Lewis, the closest Vanderbilt got to Marist was when they followed a Lewis free-throw with a three-pointer from Sheldon Jeter to make it 8-3. Marist would lead by as much as 24 in the victory.
Leading into the game, a key for Marist would be how they would manage to slow down Kedren Johnson, the sophomore guard from Vanderbilt. He was averaging 22.3 points per game before the meeting with Marist, and was playing this game on the heels of a 28-point performance against Davidson. Against Marist, Johnson only managed 4 points, and was 2/11 from the field. He had very few clean looks through the game, as Martin’s defense put a great deal of pressure on the guards in this meeting. Vanderbilt’s leading scorer would be junior Rod Odom, whose first points came with 3:03 remaining in the game.
Besides the suffocating defense the Foxes were able to play against Vanderbilt, they were propelled to victory on the efforts of Isaiah Morton, Devin Price, and Jay Bowie.
Morton scored a season-high 13 points, along his season high of 4 rebounds, on top of 5 assists. His three-pointer was the first field goal Marist hit in the game, and the 3-0 lead the Red Foxes took after it sunk would never be relinquished. Price was neutralized against West Virginia on Thanksgiving, as he was only able to score 4 points. He bounced back marvelously against Vanderbilt, tying Morton for the team lead in points with 13. Bowie, playing not far from his hometown of Tampa, Florida was a force for the Red Foxes on the boards, pulling down 12 rebounds, 8 of which coming in a first half where he occupied the paint as well as he ever had in his two previous seasons at Marist.
The Red Foxes have struggled with turnovers this season, and even today they lost the turnover battle (14 to 13,) but Marist effectively shut down the Vanderbilt perimeter offense, constantly pressuring their guards. Vanderbilt shot 10% (2-20) from beyond-the-arc, and only 14-61 from the field (23%). This was where the biggest disparity between the two teams appeared, as Marist was able to shoot 36.7% from the field, and 39.1% from three point range.
Going forward, this can be used as a building block for this team. Whether or not this win is something that will lead to the Red Foxes gaining some momentum will be seen when they take on the winner of Clemson vs UTEP, at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.
If the Red Foxes are able to control the game against either of those teams the way they were able to against Vanderbilt, they will have a significant amount of momentum going into their meeting with Army at West Point on December 4th, which is the last game they will play before beginning MAAC play against Manhattan in the McCann Arena on December 7th.