There must be something about Bracket Busters that makes this Red Fox team run like a well-oiled machine. The Red Foxes routed the Virginia Military Institute Keydets 112-74 in a game that saw a high-octane Marist offense stretch the court for fast points early and often.
The Red Foxes are 4-1 in the event under head coach Chuck Martin, and 4-0 at home, with the lone loss coming to UC Irvine, on the road, during the ’09-10 season. Tonight, the Red Fox offense took off to historic levels, with Chavaughn Lewis achieving a career high in points (30), rebounds (16), and steals (5), TJ Curry reaching a career high in points (16), and Isaiah Morton had a career high in assists (13). There was a slice of history for big man Pieter Prinsloo who tied his career high in points (6), and Jesse Martin a walk-on senior who achieved the first points of his career when he hit the 3-pointer that put Marist over the 105-point threshold, marking it their highest scoring game of the season.
Coach Martin noted that part of what allowed Marist to succeed tonight was the style of play of VMI.
“We encourage teams to press us,” Martin said, “I love when teams press us, because I think we’re really, really good on the perimeter…I want to play up and down.”
Martin made note of the fact that VMI’s style isn’t one that the Red Foxes get to see a lot of when they play teams from their own conference.
“I think one of the challenges in the MAAC is that a lot of teams don’t play that way,” Martin said. “A lot of teams play match-up zones, they pressure three-quarter court, they slow you down, they don’t want that flow.”
However, when coach Martin and the Red Foxes’ staff found out they had drawn VMI in Bracket Busters play, they knew what kind of night this team could have.
“When we found out as a staff that we were playing VMI, we got excited, because we knew how they play” Martin said. “I honestly think we’re pretty good that way…So, any time you decide to press us, we’re gonna stretch you out, we’re going to open up the court, and we’re going to drive you. I think when teams press you, the tendency is to slow down and run offense. We want to go, and attack you, and make you pay for trying to defend us full court.
One of the things that may be directly correlated to VMI’s stretching of the court may be the 64.1% field goal percentage the Red Foxes had tonight. Devin Price, who was held scoreless in the first half of the game, was good for 20 points after the break, and was 100% from the field after he started taking shots, finishing with an 87.5% field goal percentage for the night. TJ Curry didn’t miss a shot until halfway through the second half, while he was on the way to achieving his career high in points as well.
These were players, in addition to Chavaughn Lewis, that Chuck Martin made note of when explaining why he liked when teams tried to press the Foxes, and that reasoning needed very little explanation after a close examination of the box score.
Also of note was the fact that Marist was able to hold Stan Okoye, one of the top 10 scorers in the nation with an average of 20.9 points per game, to 14 points, which was only second best on the VMI Roster, to DJ Covington’s 18.
Marist needs games like this if they are going to continue building momentum leading into the MAAC tournament. Coach Martin said he wanted to turn the rest of the season into a “7 game season,” treating each game like a tournament, in which the Red Foxes are now 1-0. They will put their momentum to the test against Siena in Albany next Friday. Their first match-up with Siena was a 79-75 loss in the McCann Center. While the Red Foxes are much better at home than they are on the road, it will be intriguing to see how this newly-rolling Red Fox squad handles the Saints as the season comes down to its most crucial point with each passing game.