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Game Preview: Siena vs. Iona in MAAC Quarterfinals

men's 2014-15 team picture

The Siena Saints have advanced to the MAAC Tournament quarterfinals on Saturday as they take on No. 1 seed Iona. Tip off at the Times Union Center in Albany, NY is scheduled for noon.  It is the 105th meeting all-time between the two teams with Iona leading the series, 57-47.

The Saints, had struggled a bit down the stretch losing five straight before entering the MAAC Tournament. On Thursday, they pulled it all together and managed a convincing 71-54 win over Niagara in a First Round game. Iona swept the regular season versus Siena winning 86-72 in Albany and 87-83 in New Rochelle. Iona and Siena were picked to finish first and second in the MAAC this season.

“We played them twice and we didn’t back down,” said Siena coach Jimmy Patsos. ”They beat us fair and square for sure. We battled and we will battle. They’re a good team to play. It will be a fun game.”

Siena No. 8 vs. Iona No. 1 in the MAAC Tournament

The Saints and the Gaels have faced each other 6 times in the MAAC Tournament with Iona winning all six matchups. This is the second time the two teams have met in the quarterfinal round, the most recent in 2011 in Bridgeport Conn. where the No. 2 Gaels cruised to a 94-64 victory over the 9th seeded Saints. Iona is the only team with a winning record against Siena in the MAAC Tournament.

Siena enters the game with an 11-19 record overall having gone 7-13 in the MAAC regular season. With Thursday’s win, the Saints have now won 13 straight postseason games at the Times Union Center. They won 10 straight MAAC Tournament games here and pulled off three wins in the CBI last season. Siena is 16-2 with four MAAC Championships in its last 18 MAAC Tournament games at Times Union Center dating back to 2002.

The Saints will look to continue their recent positive trend defensively against the high-powered Iona offense. In the last three games, Siena has limited its  opponents to an average of 63.3 points per game, well below their season averaged allowed of 73.8 points. Quinnipiac, Monmouth and Niagara combined to shoot just 33% from the field and 22% from three-point range in those three games.

Previous Starters for Siena

Senior Rob Poole, an All-MAAC Third Team selection, is Siena’s leading scorer averaging 14.0 points per game (9th in MAAC). He ranks 10th in scoring all-time at Siena and is one of five active players in all of Division I to have 500 rebounds, 200 three-pointers, 200 assists and 100 steals. Poole, who is suffering through an ankle injury missed Siena’s last regular season game vs. Monmouth and after playing 31 minutes on Thursday, he was held out of Friday’s practice.

“He came in, right away, ‘I can practice coach.’,” said Siena coach Jimmy Patsos. “I told him, ‘You’re not practicing.’ He can do things offensively, defensively I don’t know.”

This season vs. Iona: Game 1 at home, 21 points, 7 rebounds. Game 2 at Iona 13 points 7 rebounds

Sophomore Marquis Wright was named Siena’s Most Valuable Player at the annual Siena Basketball Celebration on Monday night. He is second on the team in scoring (12.6 ppg.) and ranks 2nd in the MAAC in assists (5.0) and assist to turnover ratio (2.0). Wright is 3rd in the MAAC minutes played (36.6) and steals (2.0).

This season vs. Iona: Game 1 at home, 14 points, 4 assists. Game 2 at Iona 19 points, 6 assists

Senior Evan Hymes is one of just 5 players in  program history to score 1,300 points and tally 300 assists. He brings great energy to the Saints whether starting or coming of the bench. Hymes has scored at least 9 points in seven of the last eight games. He ranks 19th all time in scoring at Siena (1,330) behind Steve McCoy (1,334), 9th in assists (358) and 10th in three-pointers (183) behind Kenny Hasbrouck (185).

This season vs. Iona: Game 1 at home, 3 points. Game 2 at Iona 6 points

Sophomore Lavon Long is third on the team in scoring averaging 10.1 points and is first in rebounding with 4.9 boards per game. He reached double figures for the 35th time in his career with 10 points on Thursday versus Niagara.

This season vs. Iona: Game 1 at home, 16 points 6 rebounds. Game 2 at Iona 17 points, 5 rebounds

Sophomore Javion Ogunyemi is Siena’s most improved player this season. He has reached double figures in 6 of the last 8 games. Ogunyemi is second in the MAAC in field goal percentage on the season shooting 55%. He is averaging 9.3 points and 4.6 rebounds this season after averaging just 1.9 points and 1.8 rebounds as a freshman.

This season vs. Iona: Game 1 at home, 11 points 8 rebounds. Game 2 at Iona 9 points, 9 rebounds

Other Keys

Ryan Oliver is averaging team best 12.6 points over last five games. He scored career-high 23 points vs. Canisius (2/19) and team-high 18 at Monmouth in the final regular season game. He turned in another solid performance with 13 points on Thursday.

 

Iona

Iona enters the game with a record of 24-7 overall. They are the MAAC Regular Season Champions for the second straight year finishing with a record of 17-3. They had won 11 straight games before dropping a 68-60 decision at St. Peter’s in the regular season finale. They are ranked No. 16 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid Major Poll.

The Gaels are led by MAAC Player of the Year David Laury, a 6-9 senior forward who averages 20.1 points (2nd in MAAC, 15th nationally)and 9.5 rebounds per game, also 2nd in the MAAC. He leads the country with nine 20+ points and 10+ rebound performances and has recorded double-doubles in 16 of the last 26 games.

Iona has a second All- MAAC First Team selection in 6-4 junior guard, A.J. English. He averages 19.5 points per game (3rd in MAAC, 19th nationally). Together, Laury and Engish are the number three scoring duo in the country.

Schadrac Casimir was named the MAAC Rookie of the Year on Friday. He averages 15.2 points per game and is the NCAA leader in three pointers made amongst rookies with 89.

Isaiah Williams is a 6-7 junior guard averaging 13.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. He recently returned to the Gaels lineup after missing 12 games due to a foot injury.

“It’s the whole team. I love this team,” said Patsos. We both like to score. Williams has been a killer for us and then Laury is good. When A.J. was out the game we played them some other guys stepped up. Casimir’s as good a rookie as there is in the country. Laury’s a potential pro and I think A.J. English is a pro. He’s gonna get drafted in the second round whether it’s this year or next year.”

“They played really well,” said Iona coach Tim Cluess on Siena’s first round performance. “They played really good on both ends of the ball. They flowed the ball really well, made shots, attacked inside well. I thought their defense was really high-level. They played every possession hard. They played at a better level than I had seen them yet this year.”

“It’s a huge advantage,” said Cluess on facing Siena on their home court. “We’re playing an away game. We’re the underdog. we have to find a way to beat them. When you’re on the road, you’re always the underdog. Everyone at home wins at a 68% rate in college basketball. We’re the underdog and we have to play like that. If we don’t play like that we’ll lose.”

 

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