Game Preview: Siena At UMass

men's 2014-15 team picture


The Siena Saints begin the 2014-2015 season Friday night as they go on the road to face UMass of the Atlantic 10 Conference. Tip off at the Wiliam D. Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass. is set for 7 p.m. This is the Saints’ 10th meeting with the Minutemen who hold a 7-2 advantage all-time in the series. This is the final game of a three-year deal between the two teams. UMass has won the last two closely-contested matchups, 82-78 in December 2011 and 64-63 at the Times Union Center in November of 2012.

Siena will look to continue the momentum from last season when they finished with a 20-18 record including wins in 9 of their last 11 games. Resurging as a program under first-year coach Jimmy Patsos, they capped things off with a CBI Championship. Their 12-win improvement over the previous season tied for the second best improvement in all of Division I. The Saints were picked to finish 2nd in the MAAC Coaches’ Preseason Poll this year.

Senior Rob Poole led the Saints last season averaging 14.6 points per game. He was picked to the All-MAAC Preseason First Team this year. Junior Brett Bisping, an All-MAAC Preseason Third Team selection , is coming off a breakout season where he averaged 11.5 points and a team-high 6.5 rebounds on his way to being named the CBI MVP.

Three sophomores round out the starting lineup for the Saints. Point guard Marquis Wright, an All-MAAC Rookie Team selection last season finished with 199 assists, which tied for the fourth most in program history. His 5.2 assists per game was 2nd in the MAAC and third in the nation amongst freshmen behind Kahlil Felder (6.4) and Tyler Ennis (5.5). Forward Lavon Long, also named to the All-MAAC Rookie Team last season, reached double figures in 19 games averaging 9.4 points along with 4.9 rebounds per game. Javion Ogunyemi started four games last season before missing some time with an ankle injury. He has looked solid in the preseason and may prove to be one of Siena’s most improved players.

The Saints will be without senior center Imoh Silas who suffered a season-ending injury in practice last week. He is due to undergo surgery on Friday to repair a torn ACL. Sophomore Maurice White is listed as doubtful vs. UMass as an incision heals following the removal of a cyst from his hip area.

UMass finished the 2013-2014 season with a record of 24-9 overall, 10-6 in the A-10. They lost 3 starters due to graduation from a year ago including sensational guard Chaz Williams, a 3-time First Team All District and All-Atlantic 10 selection who averaged 15.6 points and 5.9 assists per game. Returning starters for the Minutemen are 6-10 senior center Cady Lalanne who averaged 11.3 points and 7.9 rebounds and 6-7 junior guard Derrick Gordon who averaged 9.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists.

“It’s Derrick Gordon and Cady Lalanne,” said Siena coach Jimmy Patsos. “Lalanne’s the big guy. He’s 6-10, getting looked at by the NBA, kind of a do-it-all rebounder and then Derrick Gordon is a really good scorer and just a really good player.  They’re more physical and more athletic. We’re going to have to be like most MAAC teams, scrap and hit some jumpers. We’ll see about the new guy. I like (Jabarie) Hinds who comes off the bench, left-handed point guard, transfer from West Virginia. They’re good but they’re missing some subs too. That’s why I want to see if we can get them a little early, play some zone, pack it in. If they make shots we’ll see but we have to take care of the ball.”

“Besides their size, they’re long,” Patsos said. “Lalanne’s one of the best players in the A-10 and Gordon’s really good. They lost a few players too. We have to handle the first eight minutes because they’ll be up on us offensively. They have to jump on us with their athleticism.”

“Hold onto the ball,” Patsos declared as a key to the game for the Saints. “UMass you turn it over and it’s a dunk and then you’re under pressure and then I’m out of timeouts and things don’t go so smoothly. If we’re just tough with the ball, we have to not turn the ball over and not foul as much.”

Siena point guard Wright echo’s his coach’s emphasis on taking care of the ball.

“It’s very important cause I know turnovers can lead to them scoring a lot,” said Wright. “We’ve just go to be strong with the ball, tough with the ball and play our game. I know they’re going to be ready to play. If we come out and match their intensity I feel like we can stay in the game and come out with a win. Playing against them is big for us. We just have to play like we play. It’s a lot of pressure on me being the point guard and keeping my team under control. It’s a great test.”

Ogunyemi spoke about the loss of Silas in the Siena front court and drawing the assignment of playing against Lalanne.

“We are definitely going to miss him (Silas),” said Ogunyemi. “He’s our best shot blocker and arguably our best rebounder. It’s my job to fill his shoes and as a unit to do as best of a job as we can. The scouting report says he (Lalanne) is their best player. They (Siena coaching staff) challenged me to come up and I just have to do my best to contain him.”



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