Game Preview: Siena At Fairfield

men's 2014-15 team picture

With the non-conference part of the schedule now complete, Siena returns to MAAC play on Friday night to face Fairfield. Tip off at the Webster Bank Arena is scheduled for 7 pm.  The game will be televised regionally on SNY and nationally online on ESPN3. This is the 62nd meeting between the two teams with Siena leading the series 33-28.

“It’s about the MAAC now,” said Siena coach Jimmy Patsos. “The MAAC’s wide open I think there’s some really good teams but I think we’re one of them.”

Siena enters the game with a record of 4-7 overall, 1-1 in the MAAC, following a 73-71 win over Bucknell on Sunday breaking a four-game losing streak. The Saints were hot from the field in that game shooting 55.3%, their second best shooting performance under Patsos. The coach has spoken about shot selection and resisting the temptation to settle for long distance shots as being an area for his team to improve upon. In the win over Bucknell, Siena attempted just 9 three-pointers, hitting three, while shooting 61% from two-point range.

“You’ve gotta take less threes,” Patsos said. “We were taking some bad threes and we’re working on taking some just good twos. There’s good twos, there’s good threes and then there’s bad threes. We took some bad threes and you can’t settle for that.”

Senior Rob Poole, who ranks 10th all time at Siena in three-pointers made (176), just behind Jeff Robinson (178), admits that it’s not always easy to resist launching from deep.

“That’s what I’m used to doing my entire life,” Poole said on shooting from long range. “It’s kinda hard when you’re wide open. Sometimes you’re not wide open but you want to shoot it but you gotta put one dribble down and get to the hoop and try to make an easier play. We took good shots (against Bucknell). We didn’t take that many threes which was nice. Everything else was getting to the basket, getting to the foul line and getting to the rim.”

The Saints may again be without Lavon Long who has missed the last three games with a sprained ankle. Long, who is averaging 9.9 points and a team-high 5.8 rebounds per game, was unable to practice fully on Thursday and may be a game time decision.

“I’d like the team to stay healthy but we’re working on it,” said Patsos. “Lavon’s a work in progress but he’s trying. He might just be game-time and say, hey I want to play. I’ll leave it up to Hammer and Lavon. I’m not pushing anybody to play. If it’s a little longer, it’s a little longer. I thought he’d be ready by now but I’m not a doctor. He made a lot of progress really early but then to really play, he can’t turn that corner yet.”

Sophomore Marquis Wright leads the team in scoring (14.0, 9th in MAAC) and continues to lead the MAAC (25th nationally) in assists with 5.6 per game, as well as assist/turnover ratio (2.8). He is now 18th all-time in assists at Siena with 261 (49 games) behind John Williams (265, 83 games).

Poole is second on the team in points, averaging 13.5 points per game (T-10th in MAAC). Having struggled a bit shooting-wise lately, he broke out on Sunday hitting 6-12 from the field for 17 points. When asked about his New Year’s resolution, Poole responded, “Make more shots.”

Inserted into the starting lineup the last two games, senior Evan Hymes has averaged 16 points in those two contests.  Patsos credit’s Hymes for helping to ignite the short-handed  Saints as they head into MAAC play.

“We’ve figured out that it’s gonna be whoever’s out there has to play and that you have to play 40 minutes,” explained Patsos. “I thought Evan’s given us good energy.”

Siena continues to be successful in taking care of the ball committing 10 or fewer turnovers in 8 of the last 9 games, a feat they have never accomplished since that stat was first kept in 1977. They currently rank 15th in the country with just 10.5 turnovers per game. Their 1.414 assist/turnover ratio as a team leads the MAAC and ranks 19th nationally.

Siena ranks 7th nationally with 18.8 made free throws per game. Poole currently leads the MAAC in free throw shooting at 86%.

Freshmen Willem Bradwijk and Jimmy Paige have taken on larger roles in the  absence of Imoh Silas and Brett Bisping in the frontcourt. They combined for 41 minutes of play in the win over Bucknell.

“I’m really happy, Willem and Jimmy Paige are learning,” said Patsos. “I said they would get better. They’re not gonna get it in a day.”

Fairfield enters the game with a record of 4-8 following a 61-59 overtime loss to Loyola at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sunday. It was their third straight loss. The Stags are led in scoring by 6-6 sophomore forward, Marcus Gilbert who is averaging 14.7 points per game.

“He’s a very good player, Gilbert,” said Poole. “They’re a tough team. they’re 2-0. They beat Manhattan and Quinnipiac, two good teams. So, we gotta come in there and try to play hard and try to outplay them.”

No other player averages over 7.3 points per game and the Stags average just 60.8 points per game while the Saints are averaging 73.1, second in the MAAC.

Patsos knows the Saints are in for a challenge this weekend, heading on the road against the Stags on Friday and then returning home to face league favorite, Iona on Sunday. Making the task even tougher, for the second time in a row, they are facing an opponent in the second game of the weekend who hasn’t been scheduled to play two days before as Siena has.

“We’re the only team in the league that has to play Friday and then play a team on Sunday that hasn’t played, again. Like we played Quinnipiac, then we went to Rider and they didn’t have to play so they could prepare for us. We go to Fairfield and play and then we gotta play Iona and Iona doesn’t have to play. Whatever that quirk in scheduling is, I don’t do it but it makes more of a challenge. Rider was sitting there waiting for us and now Iona’s waiting there, watching our game , ready to go and scouting us and not having to play. I guess when you have 11 teams that’s what happens but I don’t know why it happened two (MAAC) weeks in a row, the first two weeks but I don’t get consulted on those decisions.”

Patsos continued, “The bottom line is you have to play Fairfield tough cause they’re 2-0 and in first place. I think it’s great they’re in first place. They’re 2-0 and they’re showing you, Canisius (2-0) is showing you. It’s anybody’s ball game.”

“He’s got a young team.” Patsos said. “We recruited a lot of the same guys. We got some of the guys. They got some of the guys which is interesting. We recruited Coleman Johnson (5.6 ppg) and Kevin Degnan 4.4 ppg) very hard, they got them. They wanted Willem (Brandwijk).”


Fairfield 2014-2015 Results:

11/14 Central Connecticut W, 71-63

11/15 at Duke  L, 59-109

11/21 Wofford L, 36-54

11/22 Sam Houston State# L, 60-74

11/23 South Dakota W, 80-72 ot

11/29 at Northeastern L, 48-57

12/1 Bucknell L, 66-72 ot     Common opponent Siena W 76-71

12/5 Manhattan W, 67-54

12/7 at Quinnipiac W, 56-52 ot      Common opponent Siena W 88-67

12/20 Belmont L, 61-73

12/22 at Albany L, 66-77        Common opponent Siena L 77-68

12/28 vs. Loyola Md. L, 59-61 ot       Common opponent Siena W 81-71

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