No. 12-seeded Marist not intimidated by No. 5 MSU
Senior guard Jasmine Thomas tries to shoot as Purdue guard K.K. Houser, 22, and forward Liza Clemons defend during the Big Ten Tournament championship game at Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The Spartans lost to the Boilermakers 62-47. Julia Nagy/The State News
When Marist women’s basketball coach Brian Giorgis looks at his team, he sees an interesting comparison to his first-round opponent in the NCAA Tournament this weekend.
“The best way to describe us is a poor man’s MSU,” Giorgis said in a phone interview prior to his team’s practice Wednesday.
The Spartans, the No. 5 seed in the Bridgeport, Conn., region, has a date with Giorgis’ No. 12-seeded Red Foxes in College Park, Md., at 1:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2. MSU never has faced Marist previously in women’s basketball.
“We’re a very balanced team just like they are. We’re a motion team,”Giorgis continued. “… We both like to share the basketball, both like to push the ball, both like to take away opponents’ best scorer. We’re similar there.”
Marist, a private school of 4,000-plus undergraduates located in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., is a powerhouse from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, claiming the last eight league crowns.
Giorgis drew similarities between the teams because of the balanced scoring attacks — each team has six players averaging more than seven points per game — and attention to detail on defense. The Spartans lack a true go-to player to key on, which makes them more difficult to defend, he said.
“Any team that shares the basketball like they do is dangerous because they don’t care who gets it done, as long as it gets done, which is basically our mentality,” Giorgis said.
The Red Foxes are a guard-heavy squad lacking height after losing both of their centers early in the season, Giorgis said. Marist’s tallest player and leading scorer is 6-foot-2 forward Elizabeth Beynnon.
“We take that as a challenge,” Marist captain Casey Dulin said. “And I think that’s what our team likes to do, is take on challenges. I think our post players will work pretty hard in the paint and try to keep (MSU) off the boards.”
Leanne Ockenden, a junior captain for the Red Foxes, flipped the tables on MSU by saying Marist’s small, quick lineup could challenge the Spartan bigs to keep up.
“We know that Michigan State is a formidable opponent,” Giorgis said.
“Most people don’t give us a shot … we know that they’re a more talented team, but the more talented team doesn’t necessarily always win. That’s what we hope to try.”