In his first season as head coach, Jeff Bower has seen his Red Foxes swing from their lowest point to making a run at the fifth seed in the MAAC over the final weekend.
The Red Foxes lost their first nine games, then went on a five-game win streak, and have set themselves up for a chance to claim the final bye in the conference tournament.
“I think we’ve accomplished a lot up to this point, but we’re looking to do a lot more,” Bower said. “We’ve shown the resiliency and the toughness, that’s important for every team to have. We’ve shown the ability to win close games and that’s an important trait to have. I’m hoping we’re able to take those things into these last games of the regular season and into the tournament to use to our advantage.”
Marist did have the advantage of the more improbable MAAC victories in recent history, when Jay Bowie stole an inbounds and drained a three-pointer in front of the home team’s bench to pull off a one-point win over Siena.
For the senior class of Bowie, Adam Kemp and Pieter Prinsloo, the only path to postseason basketball for their career will be winning the MAAC tournament in Springfield. Bower said that he hopes this group will be the start of their program’s foundation.
“They’re a group that’s invested an awful lot into the program over the course of their careers and I’m glad they’ve been able to experience some things that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives,” Bower said. “It’s a group that has been terrific to work with and we’ll look back at them hopefully as being part of the foundation for our program.”
Senior captain Jay Bowie has been an emerging threat during conference play. Known as a glue player during his first three seasons, the senior is second on the team in scoring in conference play with 13.6 points per game. Bowie, combined with Khallid Hart’s ability to drive the ball as well as Chavaughn Lewis’ playmaking has improved the offense to average better than a point per possession for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
“When we’ve played well it’s generally been because we move the ball very well, setting up people for easy plays,” Bower said. “A lot of that comes off of the attention that Chavaughn and Khallid create off of the dribble and we’ve seen both of them become better decision makers and distributors.”
For the redshirt freshman Hart, he has found his stride during conference play as a confident attacking guard who has drastically improved his shot throughout the year.
“I think the familiarity with his teammates and the familiarity with things that we were trying to do allowed him to use his natural talents and that’s when we started to see higher levels of efficiency,” Bower said of how Hart has improved since conference play began. “He’s constantly worked to improve his spot up shooting and his decision making in traffic. I think as the comfort with everything grew, so did his performances.”
Hart has made 33 of his 42 three-pointers during conference play and leads all rookies with 16.6 points per game during conference play.
Marist closes out conference play with a trip to Fairfield and senior day against MAAC newcomer Quinnipiac on Sunday.
Ryan Restivo covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference, and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.