Marist-Michigan St. Preview

The Associated Press

All season long, Marist takes its opponents' best shots as the dominant team in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Come March, the hunted play very well as the hunters, and the Red Foxes look to add Michigan State as another upset victim in the NCAA tournament when the teams meet Saturday at College Park, Md.

Marist (26-6) won the MAAC for the eighth straight season to make the field of 64 and is trying to win a first-round NCAA game for the third straight year. The 12th-seeded Red Foxes reached the round of 16 in 2007 as a 13 seed and nearly duplicated the feat last season before suffering a close loss to St. Bonaventure in the second round.

''We knew we have our hands full, but it's kind of nice to take off the bull's-eye jacket and go and see if we can pull another upset,'' coach Brian Giorgis said. ''You get labeled that because of what you've done in the past, and the nice part is we have some players from that past who have been able to experience it, especially in the last couple of years."

The Red Foxes, who have won 21 straight games since a 78-56 loss at then-No. 7 Kentucky on Dec. 30, are led by forward Elizabeth Beynnon, who averages 12.2 points. Marist enters this game 18th in the nation in scoring defense at 52.3 points per game allowed and has held 12 of its last 13 opponents to 50 or fewer points.

Fifth-seeded Michigan State (24-8) is also looking to rekindle some NCAA tournament history of its own, trying to advance to the second round for the eighth time in its last nine appearances. The Spartans had their first-round win streak snapped last year at this venue, losing 67-55 to Louisville.

"Getting back here is a new beginning,'' said Michigan State forward Jasmine Thomas, who is second on the team averaging 10.4 points and 5.3 rebounds.

Klarissa Bell leads the Spartans offensively with 11.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Like Marist, Michigan State also excels on the defensive end, yielding 51.6 points per game while holding opponents to 36.1 percent shooting overall and 26.7 percent from 3-point range.

"We are well aware of what they have been able to accomplish in the past,'' Michigan State forward Courtney Schiffauer said. ''They are a great team and they always do well in the first couple rounds of the tournament.''

The Spartans are shooting only 40.4 percent for the season but led the Big Ten in rebounding margin with a plus-7.6 differential. The Red Foxes have been outrebounded by 2.2 per game, with opponents averaging 12.7 offensive boards.

The winner of this game will play the winner of fourth-seeded Maryland and No. 13 seed Quinnipiac in the second round on Monday.

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