Adam Kemp looks for third straight double-double as reigning MAAC Player of the Week leads Marist into nationally televised home game against conference leader Niagara. (Photo courtesy of Marist College Athletics)
If John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman were MAAC basketball announcers, there would be hundreds of instances over the past two months wherein the words "you can't predict basketball" would be sprinkled into almost every broadcast, particularly at Marist College over the past week.
After a lackluster 5-18 start that saw the Red Foxes lose ten of their first twelve conference games, Chuck Martin's team has bounced back in impressive fashion, returning home to the McCann Center to upend reigning MAAC champion Loyola just three days after a thrilling double-overtime win at Iona that is still on the short list for national game of the year even after the five-overtime epic between Notre Dame and Louisville.
Tomorrow night, Marist comes back onto the court in Poughkeepsie with their giant killer image very much intact, as standing in their way is a conference-leading Niagara team that has been a pleasant surprise under veteran head coach Joe Mihalich, potentially the favorite for MAAC Coach of the Year honors. After going on a ten-game conference winning streak earlier in the season, the Purple Eagles have hit the skids as of late; dropping three straight to fall back to the field as their lead has been reduced to just one game over the triumvirate of Loyola, Iona and archrival Canisius, who handed Niagara their most recent loss in a 77-70 decision at the Gallagher Center this past Sunday.
The Purple Eagle backcourt, led by sophomores Antoine Mason; whose brother Anthony Jr. starred for St. John's several years ago, and reigning MAAC Rookie of the Year Juan'ya Green, are the focal points in this matchup, averaging over 35 points per game for a 14-11 Niagara team that has relied on Mason and Green in much the same way Iona has leaned on Momo Jones and Sean Armand to produce most of their offense. Marist is prepared, however; as Adam Kemp looks for his third consecutive double-double in an attempt to improve his conference averages of 11 points and 10 rebounds per game, while Chavaughn Lewis tries to build on a 42 percent shooting clip from three-point range that includes his dramatic buzzer-beater at the end of the first overtime against Iona. Kemp and Lewis combined for 44 of the Red Foxes' 69 points in Sunday's win over Loyola, while point guard Isaiah Morton added nine points, six rebounds and four assists to the cause.
It has been said that the third time is the proverbial charm. Marist has already knocked off the reigning MAAC regular season and tournament champions in consecutive games, both of whom eventually made the NCAA Tournament, and now sets their sights on doing the same to the conference leader tomorrow night. For those unable to make it into Dutchess County, ESPN3 will stream the game at 7pm with WFAN update anchor and friend of the website Bob Heussler on the call.