After a long break for final exams, the Siena Saints returned to the court for games against the College of Charleston and Holy Cross.
On Tuesday, the Siena welcomed the College of Charleston to the Times Union Center. After a back-and-forth opening 20 minutes, the Cougars took a 33-28 lead into the break. The College of Charleston put the Saints in their rear-view mirror as they used a 16-4 run to establish a commanding lead that they would not relinquish. The Cougars shot a blistering 66.7-percent in the second half to roll to an 83-58 win.
The College of Charleston shot 61.5-percent from the floor and outrebounded Siena 33-24. The Cougars held the Saints to just 38.9-percent from the field to earn the win.
Preseason All-CAA first team selection, Jarrell Brantley, led the College of Charleston with 23 points on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting, all of which came in the final stanza. Brantley also corralled five rebounds and dished out three assists.
Evan Fisher returned to the starting lineup for Siena after he missed two games with a lower body injury. The senior forward led Siena with 18 points, on 7-of-14 from the field, and seven rebounds.
The Saints traveled to Worcester, Massachusetts for a rematch against the Holy Cross Crusaders, who beat them, 57-45, in the Hall of Fame Classic in November.
Siena took a 31-26 lead into the locker room following a 16-3 run to close the half.
The Saints took a 10 point lead, 47-37, on a three-pointer by Sloan Seymour. Holy Cross, who shot 61.9-percent in the second half, ripped-off a 17-2 run and took a 54-49 lead on a jumped by Austin Butler with 6:39 remaining in the game. Siena refused to go away and regained a one point advantage (57-56) on a corner triple by Kevin Degnan with 2:17 left. Butler’s layup with 1:15 to go gave the Crusaders the lead for good. Caleb Green made a layup with 23 ticks on the clock to provide the final margin of 60-57. After missing a free throw, Jalen Pickett got the rebound tapped back to him, but misfired on a potential game-tying three-point attempt at the buzzer and Holy Cross defeated the Saints for the second time this season. Siena enters the holiday break after losing two consecutive games, giving them a 4-8 record.
The Crusaders shot 54.3-percent from the floor and held Siena to a 42.6-percent clip.
Butler led Holy Cross with 18 points, on 7-of-14 from the field, including 4-of-8 from deep, and five rebounds.
Fisher led the Saints with 17 points, on 8-of-14 from the floor, and nine rebounds. Pickett scored 14 points, on 6-of-13 shooting, pulled down four boards, and distributed eight assists. Jimmy Ratliff added 11 points off the bench.
Siena lost junior forward Sammy Friday for the rest of the season due to a lower body injury.
Player of the Week: Evan Fisher
This week’s player of the week for Siena was Evan Fisher. The senior forward returned to the lineup this week after sitting out against St. Bonaventure and Robert Morris with a lower body injury. Fisher averaged 17.5 points, eight rebounds and shot 53.6-percent from the field. It is clear that the Saints are a better team with Fisher on the floor. His play will be an integral factor if Siena plans to compete in the MAAC.
Up Next: Cal Poly
The Saints will look to snap their two game skid when they return home after Christmas to take on Cal Poly next Saturday in the non-conference finale. Tip-off is set for 2pm. The Mustangs are 3-8 and are coming off a 75-70 loss to the University of Texas at Arlington on Saturday. Cal Poly is led by Donovan Fields who is averaging 16.2 points and 3.9 assists per game.
Siena went to 4-6 this season after splitting a pair of contests on the road against St. Bonaventure and Robert Morris.
The Saints were clobbered by the Bonnies in the 2018 edition of the Franciscan Cup on Wednesday night. St. Bonaventure took control of the game with a 22-3 run to end the opening stanza to take a 42-16 lead into the break. Although Siena trimmed the Bonnies lead to 22 (55-33) on a three-pointer by Jimmy Ratliff with 11:59 remaining, St. Bonaventure never relinquished the lead they built in the first half. The Bonnies ended the game on a 26-7 spurt to secure the Franciscan Cup for the third time in as many years.
St. Bonaventure put on a clinic on both ends of the court. The Bonnies shot 55.9-percent from the field and held the Saints to 32.6-percent shooting and forced Siena into 15 turnovers.
St. Bonaventure was led by Nelson Kaputo who poured in 21 points off the bench.
Ratliff was the lone Saint in double figures. The North Alabama-transfer tallied 16 points off the bench and grabbed five rebounds.
The Saints played without senior forward Evan Fisher who left last Saturday’s game against Harvard with a lower body injury.
Siena looked to get back on the right track when they traveled to take on Robert Morris on Saturday.
The Saints took a 38-32 lead into halftime and built an 18 point advantage on a three-pointer by Sloan Seymour with 16:25 left. The Colonials were not done yet. Robert Morris used a 22-4 run to take a 67-65 lead with 4:26 to go. Jalen Pickett backed down his defender to tie the score at 71 with 41.7 ticks on the clock. Pickett missed the free throw that could have given Siena the lead. The Colonials’ Josh Williams missed a layup with 18 seconds remaining, giving the Saints the opportunity to win the contest on their final possession. The Saints did just that. Kevin Degnan nailed a triple with two seconds left to send Siena home with a 74-71 victory.
The Saints shot 50.9-percent from the floor and connected on 11-of-25 (44-percent) of their attempts from beyond the arc. Robert Morris shot 56.3-percent from the field, but only made six threes.
The Colonials were led by Williams who scored 19 points.
Siena was led by Pickett who netted 20 points, corralled seven boards, and dished out seven assists. Degnan, who hit the game-winning trey, added a career-high 19 points, on 7-of-13 shooting, including 5-of-8 from deep, and seven rebounds. Manny Camper shot a perfect 6-of-6 from the field and finished with 14 points and four boards. Ratliff earned his first start of the season and recorded a solid performance with 10 points and four rebounds.
Fisher was out for the second consecutive game nursing a lower leg injury, while Sammy Friday IV also sat out against Robert Morris with a lower body injury. Ratliff and Degnan both stepped up in their absences.
Player of the Week: Jimmy Ratliff
Although Degnan hit the game-winner and Pickett led the Saints in scoring, the unsung hero of the week for Siena was Jimmy Ratliff. The red-shirt freshman walk-on had his two best games of the season thus far against St. Bonaventure and Robert Morris. Ratliff averaged 13 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including 6-of-11 from distance, and 4.5 rebounds. Ratliff will need to continue to step up if Fisher and Friday IV are out for an extended period of time.
Up Next: College of Charleston and Holy Cross
The Saints have a long layoff before there next game. Siena will return to action next Tuesday, December 18 when they host the College of Charleston at the Times Union Center. Tip-off is set for 7pm. The Cougars are 7-2 and are coming off a 72-64 win over Charlotte. College of Charleston is led by Grant Riller who is averaging 21.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game. Last year, the Cougars defeated the Saints 68-60 in overtime in Charleston.
Siena will have an opportunity to avenge their earlier loss to Holy Cross when they travel to Worcester, Massachusetts to battle with the Crusaders on Saturday, December 22 at noon. It is very unusual to play a non-conference opponent twice in a season, but this game was scheduled not knowing that the two teams were going to play each other in the championship game of the Hall of Fame Classic in November. Holy Cross is 6-4 and are coming off a 79-63 loss to Rhode Island. The Crusaders won the first meeting over the Saints 57-45. Jacob Grandison led Holy Cross to the win with 24 points and four assists, while Fisher led Siena with 14 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in the loss.
The college basketball season is off and running. What have we learned so far?
As the calendar turns to December, teams are entering the second month of their seasons looking to take advantage of their last few opportunities to grab wins in the nonconference portion of the schedule before 2019 and conference play commences.
The month of November was a wild one from the tip. From Duke blowing out Kentucky on opening night through Feast Week, we’ve seen some marquee matchups, upsets, surprises, and teams that look like they have a legitimate chance of cutting down the nets in Minneapolis in early April.
The four most impressive teams thus far are Gonzaga, Kansas, Virginia, and Michigan.
Although Duke came roaring out of the gate, the young Blue Devils got punched in the mouth in the championship game of the Maui Invitational by the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Gonzaga held on to beat Duke 89-87 in college basketball’s most intriguing matchup thus far this season. The Bulldogs ran through the Maui Invitational without forward Killian Tillie, who is out for the foreseeable future with an ankle injury. Mark Few’s team is deep and talented—led by junior Rui Hachimura, who has been a beast. The Japan native has NBA scouts drooling and is averaging 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Even without Tillie, Gonzaga is still incredibly deep and talented. Zach Norvell Jr., Brandon Clarke, and Josh Perkins are all averaging double figures. The top ranked Zags still have nonconference games against Creighton, Washington, Tennessee, and North Carolina, but if they can make it through those contests unscathed, they may just be dancing with an unblemished mark in March.
The Kansas Jayhawks entered most preseason polls as the number team in the country, but for some reason are now ranked second even though they have yet to lose a game. Duke leapfrogged Kansas after their throttling of Kentucky on opening night in Indianapolis and Gonzaga did the same after beating Duke in Maui. Kansas looks every bit as good as they were expected to be in the preseason. The Jayhawks defeated fifth ranked Tennessee in the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament championship game in Brooklyn, 87-81 in overtime. After almost not being welcomed back to the roster by Bill Self, Lagerald Vick has played with a chip on his shoulder to begin the season. The senior guard is leading the team in scoring with 19.6 points per game behind 58.3-percent shooting from three point land. Memphis-transfer Dedric Lawson is averaging a double-double, while Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson are also averaging double figures in scoring. Prior to entering Big Twelve play in search of their fifteenth consecutive regular season conference title, Kansas has matchups with Stanford, Villanova, and Arizona State. At this rate, it would be pretty shocking if anyone were to derail the Jayhawks hopes of another league title.
After being the first one seed to lose to a sixteen seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Virginia Cavaliers have bounced back with a vengeance to start their 2018-19 campaign. Just as it has been over the course of Tony Bennett’s tenure in Charlottesville, defense has been the key to Virginia’s early success. The fourth ranked Cavaliers are second in defensive efficiency and have held opponents to a mere 52.4 points per game. The main reason why the Hoos were bounced by UMBC in the first round of the “Big Dance” a year ago was that they were without their best player De’Andre Hunter in that game. Hunter is back and is leading the team in points (16.6) and rebounds (6.1) per game. Freshman point guard Kehei Clark has nearly a 3:1 assist to turnover ratio, which has allowed sharp shooters, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy, to get open looks off the ball. The Cavaliers defeated Wisconsin 53-46 in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis and traveled to College Park to defeat Maryland 76-71 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Virginia has a date at South Carolina on December 19, and it is very likely that they will enter ACC play undefeated. With Hunter being more of a focal point on this year’s team, this may be the year that Bennett finally makes it to the Final Four.
The reigning National Runners-Up from Michigan are back and look like one of the most impressive teams in the country. John Beilein’s team has climbed to number seven in the polls behind a tremendous defensive effort. The Wolverines are the top team in defensive efficiency and are hold opponents to just 51 points per contest. Michigan is led by freshman forward Iggy Brazdeikis who is averaging 16.9 points, on 54.9-percent shooting and 38.9-percent from three, and 5.7 rebounds per game. Charles Matthews and Jordan “Swaggy” Poole have chipped in and are averaging 15.4 and 10.1 points per game, respectively. The Wolverines have absolutely dominated their competition, winning by an average margin of 21.7 points on their way to a 7-0 start. Michigan avenged their loss in last year’s National Championship game with a 73-46 whooping of defending National Champion and then number eight Villanova. The Wolverines knocked off Providence, 66-47, in the championship game of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. Most recently, Michigan pummeled number eleven North Carolina, 84-67, in front of a raucous home crowd in Ann Arbor in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Wolverines begin Big Ten play this weekend when they battle with number 19 Purdue on Saturday. As it looks right now, Michigan is good enough to be right back where they were last March, with hopes of getting one more win in 2019.
Bracket Busters: Buffalo and Furman
It’s never too early to pay attention to the teams from the one-bid leagues that are making noise in the nonconference portion of the schedule because that could be the difference between winning and losing your office March Madness pool. Two teams to keep an eye on this year are Buffalo and Furman.
The Buffalo Bulls are no stranger to being “Bracket Busters,” as last year they eliminated number overall pick Deandre Ayton and the Arizona Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Buffalo is off to a 6-0 start this season and have climbed to number 21 in the polls, largely in part to their 99-94 overtime win over then number thirteen West Virginia in Morgantown. Senior guard CJ Massinburg is averaging 20.5 points per game, on 51.9-percent from the field and 51.5-percent from deep, and 7.8 rebounds per game. Massinburg, along with Jayvon Graves, Nick Perkins, and Jeremy Harris, will look to have the Bulls dancing into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament this year.
Can you name a school that has beaten half of last year’s Final Four on the road this season? Probably not. The correct answer to that question would be the Furman Paladins. Furman blessed the “Fighting Sister Jeans” with a 60-58 win in Chicago and followed that up with a 76-68 upset of then number eight Villanova. The Paladins of the SoCon are 7-0 and will look to pull off another upset on the road when they take on LSU in Baton Rouge on December 21. Jordan Lyons, Matt Rafferty, and Clay Mounce hope to lead Furman to the “Big Dance” for the first time since 1980.
Keep your eyes glued to the tube as we propel our way through the remainder of the nonconference slate and into conference play in December.
Saints Fall in Championship Game of Hall of Fame Classic
The Saints took part in the Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Classic presented by Citi at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT this weekend. Siena defeated Norfolk State 61-58 Friday night and advanced to the championship game where they lost to Holy Cross 57-45.
The freshman duo of Sloan Seymour and Jalen Pickett powered the Saints to a 61-58 victory Friday night over Norfolk State. Seymour led Siena with 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting (4-of-9 from three), while Pickett finished with 12 points, four rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Evan Fisher chipped in with 13 points in the victory. The Saints poured in 10+ three pointers for the third game in a row, further differentiating the coaching style of Coach Jamion Christian from his predecessor Jimmy Patsos.
Siena was unable to capture the Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Classic trophy as they fell 57-45 to Holy Cross in Sunday morning’s championship game. Fisher led the way for the Saints with 14 points, on 7-of-14 from the field, and seven rebounds. Siena connected on less than 10 threes for the first time this season and suffered their second loss of the 2018-19 campaign.
Player of the Week: Evan Fisher
Evan Fisher was this week’s player of the week for Siena. The senior averaged 13.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and shot 12-for-22 in the two games in the Hall of Fame Classic. The Saints will look for Fisher to be a stabilizing force on the interior and provide senior leadership as they continue to move through their season.
Up Next: Lehigh Mountain Hawks and Colgate Raiders
The Saints open their home slate on Wednesday against Lehigh. Tip off at the Times Union Center is set for 6pm. The Mountain Hawks are 3-1 and are led by Pat Andree who is averaging 17.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Last year Siena lost a nail-biter, 91-90, in overtime at Lehigh.
Siena hosts Colgate on Saturday. Tip off at the Times Union Center is set for 2pm. Jordan Burns leads the Raiders, who are off to a 3-1 start. The sophomore guard is averaging 18 points and five assists per contest.
Siena off to a 1-1 start in the Jamion Christian Era
After a tumultuous offseason that saw Siena fire head coach Jimmy Patsos amid a scandal involving mistreatment of a team manager and many changes to the roster, the Saints opened the Jamion Christian Era this week. Christian had previously coached Mount Saint Mary’s to two NCAA Tournaments in six years. Coach Christian preaches defensive pressure and three point shooting as the cornerstones of his coaching philosophy. Saints fans saw both on display in the team’s first two games this week.
Siena, who was picked to finish last in the MAAC this season, opened their 2018-19 at Big East powerhouse Providence on Tuesday. The Saints pulled themselves within seven late, but ultimately fell 77-67 to the Friars. Providence coach Ed Cooley, who previously coached at Fairfield in the MAAC, made it clear in his postgame statements that he thought Siena would not finish last in the MAAC this year. Freshman forward Sloan Seymour led the way for the Saints as he tallied 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. Senior forward Evan Fisher contributed with 11 points, six rebounds, and three assists in the losing effort. Siena held true to Coach Christian’s philosophy as the team made 12 three pointers and forced the Friars into 15 turnovers.
The Saints had a quick turnaround between its first two games as they traveled to the nation’s capital to take on George Washington Thursday night. Siena pulled away down the stretch to clinch a 69-61 win; the first victory under Christian. Freshman point guard Jalen Pickett stuffed the stat sheet with 19 points, five rebounds, and six assists. Senior forward Kevin Degnan finished with 15 points and eight boards in the win. The Saints connected on 13-of-34 three point attempts, compared to George Washington, who shot just 8-of-18 from distance.
Player of the Week: Jalen Pickett
This week’s player of the week for Siena was Jalen Pickett. The freshman has been tasked with quarterbacking the offensive attack for the Saints and has led the team in scoring at 13 points per contest. Most importantly, he has dished out 15 assists and only turned the ball over three times over the course of the first two games. Siena will rely on Pickett to shoulder a bulk of the ball-handling duties this season and has shown that he is up for the task thus far.
Up next: Norfolk State and Holy Cross/Stony Brook
Siena will take part in the Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Classic presented by Citi at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut this weekend. The Saints will face Norfolk State in the first round Friday night at 8:30pm., followed by either the championship or consolation against either Holy Cross or Stony Brook.
The Norfolk State Spartans are 2-1 overall and will play at South Carolina on Tuesday night before they battle with the Saints. Norfolk State is led by Nic Thomas who is averaging 13.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
Holy Cross is 1-1 on the season and will play at Providence before they meet with Stony Brook Friday night. The Crusaders are led by Austin Butler who is averaging 14 points and 3.5 boards per contest. If Siena and Holy Cross play each other this weekend, they will face each other for a second time, as the Saints are at the Crusaders December 22.
Stony Brook is 2-0 on the season with wins over George Washington and South Carolina and will square off against Holy Cross on Friday at 6pm. The Seawolves are led by Akwasi Yeboah who is averaging 18 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.