Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Year In Review: Marist

MAAC Rookie of the Year Khallid Hart guided Marist's resurgence after 0-9 start, lifting Red Foxes to nine conference wins and renewing hope in Jeff Bower's first season at helm. (Photo courtesy of Marist College)

If one program qualified for a season that ran a full emotional spectrum, Marist would certainly be one of the first names mentioned.

After all, the Red Foxes started the inaugural campaign of the Jeff Bower era with nine consecutive losses, a start that offered very little promise of bigger and better things after Chuck Martin was unable to break through over five years in Poughkeepsie. Suddenly, a five-game winning streak restored the optimism that sprung fluidly and frequently during the offseason, the same flowing stream that led Marist to a fifth-place prediction in the preseason MAAC coaches' poll.

Losses in five of their next six games gave way to a similar winning run, with the Red Foxes dropping only one of six following a 66-56 home loss to Rider on January 18th. Close defeats to Saint Peter's and Fairfield sandwiched a 19-point setback at the hands of Iona, but Marist ended the regular season on a high note with a 31-point thrashing of conference semifinalist Quinnipiac to enter the MAAC tournament on a high note. 

Once there, however, a 24-point deficit was too much to overcome in their opening game in Springfield, as the Red Foxes' valiant rally in the final minutes came up just two points short against Niagara in the final preliminary round contest at the MassMutual Center. Nonetheless, the 12-19 showing revealed a much more offensively proficient team than Marist fans had been used to in recent seasons, with four players averaging ten or more points per game, led by the 17.5 points of junior swingman and all-MAAC honoree Chavaughn Lewis.

MAAC Rookie of the Year Khallid Hart showed the most promise after finally taking the court as a redshirt freshman, averaging nearly 15 points per game while shooting 38 percent from three-point range, backing up an efficient farewell season from senior wing Jay Bowie and a quietly dominant showing from 6-10 big man Adam Kemp, whose back held up long enough for him to muster ten points and just under eight rebounds per contest.

With Bowie and Kemp having graduated, Bower must now go about replacing two vital cogs in his lineup as the Red Foxes enter 2014-15. Led by Hart and Lewis in the backcourt, as well as high-energy Brooklyn guard T.J. Curry, Marist will need size to stand up to some of the bigger and stronger front lines in the conference, and will be reliant upon freshmen R.J. Coil and Connor McClenaghan to step in and fill significant minutes alongside redshirt freshman Kentrall Brooks and the athleticism of 6-7 Phillip Lawrence, who makes up for his relatively small stature for a forward with a game that enables him to be an X-factor in the paint.

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