Short-handed Marist women fall 75-61 to Kentucky
POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (AP)
Brian Giorgis has been trying to get top teams to come play at Marist for years. Yet, few have obliged.
He can only hope word might spread from Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell after the show the school put on Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
A raucous sellout crowd was into the game from 30 minutes before the opening tip until the end despite the 75-61 victory by the seventh-ranked Wildcats.
''It doesn't get much better than this for atmosphere and competition and intensity,'' Giorgis said. ''It was a wonderful night for women's college basketball.''
Mitchell and his players were thoroughly impressed by the school, nestled 80 miles north of New York City, which has been a hotbed for women's basketball since Giorgis arrived 12 years ago.
''Everything from the drive up from the city, to the welcome we received. This is one of the best places I've ever been,'' Mitchell said. ''I hope they'll have us back sometime down the road.''
As soon as Kentucky stepped on the court in warm-ups they were booed loudly. Something the Wildcats players didn't expect.
''It was very loud even when we were warming up,'' said Kentucky forward Samarie Walker, who had eight points and 11 rebounds. ''We couldn't hear each other speak. This is a great atmosphere.''
The Wildcats (1-0) were the highest ranking team ever to visit Marist, a school nestled 80 miles north of New York City. The Red Foxes hosted 16th-ranked Oklahoma in 2009 and lost an overtime thriller. The Sooners will come to Poughkeepsie again right before Christmas. Giorgis will hope to have a healthier team at that point.
The Red Foxes were missing star guard Casey Dulin, who had surgery last week on her right foot.
''We don't have Casey for a while, I don't know for how long,'' Giorgis said. ''This is going to get us better.''
Marist also was without 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman Delaney Hollenbeck and 6-2 junior Tori Jarosz.
Even without the trio, Marist got off to a great start. The Red Foxes led 15-8 after Leanne Ockenden's 3-pointer with 14:02 left in the first half.
''You start to get chills it was so cool,'' Giorgis said. ''It's a big time atmosphere at a mid-major school. Credit every single fan that was there.''
That was the Red Foxes' last basket for the nearly the next 12 minutes.
Kentucky trailed 18-12 before scoring 12 straight points during a 17-1 run. Six different Wildcats scored during the burst which was capped by Denesha Stallworth's layup that made it 29-19 with 4:46 left in the half.
Bri Holmes' layup with 2 minutes left in the half ended the field goal drought and made it 34-24. Kentucky led 39-26 at the half.
The Wildcats built the lead to 17 points in the second half and looked poised to blow it open more before the Red Foxes rallied scoring 11 straight to cut their deficit to 50-44 midway through the second half. They had a chance to pull closer, but a 3-pointer by Ockenden, who led the team with 16 points, rimmed out.
Kentucky then scored 12 of the next 16 points to put the game away.
The Red Foxes have been one of the top mid-major programs over the past decade. They won their eighth straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament last season and have five NCAA tournament victories since 2007.
Due to their success under Giorgis, the Red Foxes have always drawn well at home since his arrival 12 seasons ago. The veteran coach is donating money toward hunger awareness for every fan that attends a Marist home game. The campaign got off to a good start with the sellout for the Kentucky game. Wildcats coach Matthew Mitchell pledged to match Giorgis' donations for the season.
Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg