JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- For a couple of minutes against St. Peter's, Marist (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) looked like it might be facing a test to keep alive the longest winning streak in women's basketball.
The game is longer than five minutes though and the Red Foxes found their defense, kicked up their offense and rolled to their 21st straight win with an impressive 79-38 win on Monday night.
"We were sleep walking through the first four minutes," Marist coach Brian Giorgis said. "After that we really kicked it in gear. Our bench, which done the job for us all year, gave us energy and then the starters came back and helped pick it up. We just wore them down after that. They only had nine players."
The Red Foxes (25-2, 16-0) held St. Peter's without a field goal for the final 14:41 of the first-half in wrapping up the top seed for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament for the seventh straight year.
Erica Allenspach, who was playing with a bruised thigh, had 13 points and a career-high seven steals while Kelsey Beynnon came off the bench and had 7 of her career-high 13 points in a 24-0 run that decided the game.
"Our defense did the job until our offense took over," Giorgis said.
Marist outscored St. Peter's 28-4 in the final 14:41, with all the Peahens points coming from the free throw line.
Holding St. Peter's to 38 points allowed Marist moves into first for scoring defense in the country, narrowly passing No. 1 Connecticut.
Giorgis wasn't worried about what other conferences think about his team.
"To be honest all we want to do is go 18-0 in the conference," he said. "It's only been done once, in 2007-08, by us. Most people didn't give us much of a chance this season graduating the greatest player in our history, whose uniform we retired on Friday. These kids have been on a mission to show that we're OK."
There were many in the MAAC who expected Marist to come back to the pack with the graduation of all-time leading scorer Rachele Fitz.
"We have a chip on our shoulder because Rachele is gone and everyone thought this would be a down year for us," Allenspach said. "We still have games left we have to focus on. We're definitely playing with a little more chip on our shoulders than before."
St. Peter's (3-24, 3-13) was 4 of 30 from the field in the half (13.3 percent), missing its final 23 shots in falling behind 33-13. Quiana Porter had seven points for the Peahens, who shot 24 percent in losing their ninth straight.
"We're not always going to shoot well but we have to keep our defense going," Allenspach said. "We just missed a lot of shots early. That's why there are 40 minutes. We had extra time."
St. Peter's jumped to leads of 7-2 and 9-5 in the opening five minutes but they fell apart after that."
"We got out on fire, and just had lapses after that," Porter said.
Beynnon provided a little comic relief for Marist. She left here jersey at school and had to wear a No. 1 jersey without her name on it.
"It's just a little embarrassing," she said. "I was on the bus and woke up and said 'Oh my God.' I completely forget my jersey. At least we have good managers."
Wheeler, Howard share lofty goals at Kentucky
Newcomer Sahvir Wheeler, veteran Rhyne Howard are both looking for big seasons from their respective UK basketball programs.
Sources: Southern Miss to join Sun Belt Conference as early as 2023
Southern Miss will join the Sun Belt Conference, which could soon add more members, sources tell ESPN.
Louisville Cardinals agree to contract extension with women's basketball coach Jeff Walz
Sixth-ranked Louisville and women's basketball coach Jeff Walz have agreed to a contract extension through 2028.