ALBANY -- The Niagara women continue their MAAC Tournament run today when they face four-time defending champion Marist in the semifinals. Tipoff is set for around 11:50. The Purple Eagles beat Manhattan on Friday to reach the semis. Marist knocked off Canisius.
The winner of the Niagara-Marist game will meet Fairfield at noon Sunday in the women's final. Fairfield advanced to its first title game in nine years earlier this morning with a 61-57 win over Iona.
One of the keys for Niagara today will be executing its aggressive defense without putting Marist on the foul line. The Red Foxes lead the nation in foul shooting at 80.9 percent (St. Bonaventure's women are fourth in the country at 80.3). Marist is an average rebounding team, so the Purple Eagles might be able to gain an advantage on the boards.
Marist senior Rachele Fitz, the three-time MAAC player of the year, was fairly quiet against Canisius in the quarters with 12 points. Fitz is likely to have a big game today. She has a way of rising to the occasion -- and she is an 89 percent free-throw shooter. It would be no surprise if she went for 20-plus today and had a productive day at the line.
Both of the Big 4 men's teams play later today in the quarterfinals. Canisius takes on Fairfield at 7:30 and Niagara meets Iona at 10 p.m. -- though delays have been known to push the late game even later.
--- Jerry Sullivan