Saints Marching through MAAC Play
In the preseason, Siena was picked to finish last in the MAAC. After Sunday’s win at preseason favorite Rider, the Saints sit just half a game out of first place, tied for second with Canisius.
Looking to build a winning streak following their triumph over Iona on the road last Saturday, Siena hosted Fairfield on Monday at the Times Union Center. Both teams shot the ball over 50-percent from the floor in the first half and the Saints took a 38-32 lead into the break. The Stags tied the game at 47 on a layup by Wassef Methnani with 10:05 left. Siena used an 8-0 run to pull away capped off with a layup by Kadeem Smithen with 3:43 remaining. Siena picked up 12 consecutive defensive stops over that stretch and won 61-50.
After allowing Fairfield to shoot 52-percent in the opening stanza, the Saints held the Stags to 29.2-percent shooting over the course of the final twenty minutes. Siena’s defense also forced Fairfield into 17 turnovers. The Saints shot it at a 47.9-percent from the field, including 56.3-percent from three.
Landon Taliaferro led the Stags with 14 points.
Siena was paced by Evan Fisher who tallied 18 points, on 8-of-16 shooting, and four rebounds. Jalen Pickett stuffed the stat sheet with 13 points, five boards, three assists, a block, and a steal. Kevin Deganan chipped in with 10 points, five rebounds, and three steals.
The Saints hoped to push their win streak to three when they traveled downstate to take on the Manhattan Jaspers at Draddy Gymnasium. It was a defensive affair throughout. Manhattan held Siena to 25-percent from the field in the first half and took a 17-16 advantage into the intermission. Siena turned it around in the second half and took a 14 point lead, 43-29, on a jumper by Fisher with 6:59 to go. The Jaspers rallied all the way back within two, 51-49, when Nehemiah Mack made a layup with four seconds left in the contest. Pickett missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Mack’s heave at the buzzer fell short and Siena prevailed.
Siena flexed its muscles on defense yet again holding Manhattan to 40-percent from the floor and forced the Jaspers into 16 turnovers. Siena pulled out the win despite shooting a dreadful 37.3-percent from the field.
Tyler Reynolds led Manhattan with 18 points, on 6-of-10 from the floor, and nine rebounds.
Fisher scored 18 points, on 8-of-15 shooting, and pulled down six boards to lead the Saints to victory.
Siena traveled to Lawrenceville, New Jersey Sunday afternoon to battle with the Rider Broncs. Entering the game, the Saints were engaged in a four way tie with Rider, Canisius, and Quinnipiac for second place in the MAAC. Siena opened up a 31-21 lead on a layup by Degnan with 3:26 to play in the opening stanza, but the Broncs came back to cut the Saints’ lead to 33-32 at halftime. Siena opened up a 46-36 advantage with 13:48 left when Smithen connected on a pair of free throws. As they did in the first twenty minutes, Rider stormed back and used a 13-3 run to tie the game at 49 with 8:14 remaining. With the game tied once again at 57, Manny Camper connected on a free throw with 36 ticks on the clock to give the Saints a 58-57 lead. Smithen connected on a free throw to extend Siena’s advantage to 59-57 with four seconds left on the clock. Jordan Allen missed a three-pointer at the buzzer and the Saints hung on to win another close game on the road.
Siena’s defense was stout throughout yet again. The Saints held the Broncs to 33.9-percent from the field, including an abysmal 1-of-16 (6.3-percent) from three-point land. Siena forced Rider into 13 turnovers as well. The Saints hung on even though they only shot 36-percent from the field.
Tyere Marshall led the Broncs with 19 points, on 8-of-14 shooting, and five rebounds.
Siena’s senior leadership proved to be the difference in the game as Fisher poured in 21 points, on 8-of-19 from the floor, and eight rebounds, while Smithen finished with 16 points, six boards, and four steals.
The Saints rank 30th nationally in scoring defense, holding opponents to 64.7 points per game, and are forcing their opponents into 16.5 turnovers per contest (40th in the nation).
Siena, who has won seven of their last eight games, is 13-12 overall, 8-4 in the MAAC and is tied for second place in the conference with Canisius – just a half game behind Monmouth.
Player of the Week: Evan Fisher
This week’s player of the week for Siena is Evan Fisher. The senior big man has been a key cog in the Saints’ success of late. Fisher averaged 19 points, on 48-percent shooting, and six rebounds as Siena extended their win streak to four this week. His play on the court and leadership are pivotal to fuel Siena as they enter the home stretch.
Up Next: Iona and Quinnipiac
Siena begins its four game home stand when they host MAAC rival Iona on Wednesday at the Times Union Center. Tip-off is set for 7pm. The Saints will look to sweep the season series from the Gaels. Last Saturday, Siena defeated Iona 56-54 in New Rochelle. The Gaels are 8-15 overall, 6-6 in the MAAC, and are coming off a 79-76 win over Niagara on Sunday. Iona is led by EJ Crawford who is averaging 17.9 points and five rebounds per game.
Next Sunday, the Saints will play host to Quinnipiac. Tip-off is set for 2pm. This will be the only meeting between the two schools this season. The Bobcats are 12-10 overall, 7-4 in the MAAC, and are coming off a 66-65 win over Iona on Friday. Quinnipiac is led by Cameron Young who is averaging 21.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest. Last year, the Bobcats swept the season series from Siena and ended their season in the MAAC Tournament winning 67-58 in Albany.