Game Preview: Siena vs. Niagara

men's 2014-15 team picture

Siena returns to the Times Union Center on Thursday night to face the Purple Eagles of Niagara in  a MAAC Conference matchup. Tip off is scheduled for 7 pm. It is the 92nd meeting all-time between the two team with Niagara leading the series, 46-45. In the Division I era, Siena leads the series, 43-33. The Saints swept the series last season winning 84-71 on the road and 66-62 at home.

The Saints enter the game with an overall record of 5-8 and a MAAC record of 2-2 following a 86-72 loss to Iona on Sunday and a 68-67 road win two days prior at Fairfield.

Senior Rob Poole leads Siena in scoring, averaging 14.5 points per game (8th in MAAC). He has been heating up lately averaging 18.7 points and 5.3 rebounds over the last three games while shooting 51% from the field and 47% (7-15) from three point range. He had shot just 33% FG and 26% 3-pt. over the first 10 games. Poole is second in the MAAC in free throw percentage (84.4%). Poole is now tied for 20th with Bruce Schroeder on the career scoring list at Siena (1,290) and ranks 9th all time at Siena in three-pointers made (182) behind Kenny Hasbrouck (185).

Sophomore Marquis Wright is 2nd on the team in scoring (13.6, 11th in MAAC) and continues to lead the MAAC (27th nationally) in assists with 5.5 per game, as well as assist/turnover ratio (2.7). He is now 20th all-time in assists at Siena with 270 (51 games) behind Brian Bidlingmyer and Isaiah Stewart (271, 118 & 122 games). Wright is tied for the MAAC lead with 2.2 steals per game. He is shooting 47.8% (9th in MAAC) from the field after shooting 42% his freshman year.

Sophomore Javion Ogunyemi has stepped up in a big way for the Saints averaging 11.2 points and a team-best 6.8 rebounds over the last five games. He ranks third in the MAAC in field goal percentage shooting 54.4%. Qgunyemi has reached double figures in 4 of the last 5 games after doing so just twice in the first 38 games of his career.

“It’s like climbing Mount Everest,” said Siena coach Jimmy Patsos. ”It’s harder as you go up. I think Javion has done a great job. He’s a really smart kid. He does well, had another great semester academically. Smart guys figure it out. He’s figuring out that it’s harder as you become the guy because they focus on you.”

Lavon Long is expected to return to the starting lineup on Thursday night. On the season he is averaging 10.7 points and a team-high 5.5 rebounds per game. After missing three games due to a sprained ankle, Long averaged 14 points and shot 59% in 25 minutes in the two games since his return.

“What he did was a miracle,” said Patsos. “Like a Willis Reed-type weekend playing both games, a lot of minutes not complaining at all, giving it his all. He just played really well for us.”

Senior Evan Hymes  now ranks 30th all-time in scoring at Siena with 1,158 career points just behind Clarence Jackson (1,164). Hymes now stands at 12th all-time in three-pointers made at Siena (165) behind Jim Secretarski (169). He is 13th in assists at Siena (329) behind Kenny Hasbrouck (331).

Siena ranks 2nd in the MAAC in scoring, averaging 72.6 points per game after averaging 69.3 and 60.0 over the last two seasons.

The Saints committed an uncharacteristic 17 turnovers on Sunday in the loss to Iona. They have committed 10 or fewer turnovers in 9 of the last 11 games, a feat they had never accomplished since that stat was first kept in 1977. They currently lead the MAAC and rank 25th in the country with just 10.9 turnovers per game.

Niagara enters the game with a record of 3-9 overall and also 2-2 in the MAAC following a 73-61 win over Manhattan on Friday and a 66-50 loss to Monmouth on Sunday. The Purple Eagles who finished last season 7-26 overall and 3-17 in the MAAC, were picked 11th in the 2014-15 MAAC Preseason Poll. They have only one win in their last 10 trips to Siena.

Niagara is led in scoring by 6-4 RS-sophomore guard Emile Blackman who is averaging 11.0 points per game.Ramone Snowden, a 6-5 sophomore forward is scoring 10.4 points and pulling down a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game. 6-2 sophomore guard Wesley Myers adds 9.2 points.

6-8 R-freshman forward Dominique Reid is averaging a team-best 11 points and 5.8 rebounds in Niagara’s last four games.

According to KenPom.com, Niagara is the 6th youngest team in the nation. A much different team from two years ago, NU has 13 underclassmen on the roster in their second season under coach Chris Casey.

“They’re a totally different team,” said Patsos. “They share the ball. They’re much more efficient on defense. They’re playing with a lot of energy.”

Niagara has the toughest non-conference schedule in the MAAC and ranks in the top-30 in the nation according to several sites. ESPN Daily RPI ranks NU’s non-conference strength of schedule 21st, and KenPom.com ranks Niagara 28th.

“We’re focused on Niagara,” said Patsos. “Blackman and Snowden are really good players. Chris is doing a good job with a young team. I encourage everyone to come out. Typical Niagara-Siena rivalry which has been going on a long time. We’ll do the best we can to try to contain their energy. Siena-Niagara for 30 years has been a tough game and this will be a tough game.”


Niagara 2014-2015 Results:


Fri. 14 at Pitt L, 78-45

Thurs. 20 at Saint Peter’s W, 61-59

SAT. 22 Hartford L, 65-62

Sat. 29 St. Bonaventure L, 74-59


Tue. 2 at St. John’s L, 70-57

SAT. 6 CANISIUS L, 77-64

Sat. 13 at Davidson L, 78-58

Fri. 19 at Buffalo L, 88-62


TUE. 30 ALBANY W, 65-47



SUN. 4 MONMOUTH L, 66-50



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