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MAAC Tourney Preview: #4 Siena Women vs. #5 Iona

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Siena begins play in the 2017 MAAC Tournament on Saturday as they take on Iona in a quarterfinal matchup. Tip off at the Times Union Center is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Siena leads the all-time series with Iona 40-26, including 4-3 edge in MAAC Tournament action.

Siena enters the game as the #4 seed after finishing the regular season with an overall record of 14-15. Their conference record of 13-7 placed them in a tie for third with Fairfield who earned the #3 seed by virtue of tie-breaking criteria. The Saints are winners of 4 straight heading into the postseason.

“I really like where our team is at right now,” said Siena coach Ali Jaques. “I think for us to have the success we dream about, it’s got to be an aggressive team that’s in attack mode versus a team that’s waiting for things to happen to them.”

Siena is led in scoring by All-MAAC First Team selection and MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, Jackie Benitez who is second in the MAAC in scoring with 16.7 points per game. The sophomore is also second in the conference in free throw percentage (.821), steals (3.0), and threes (82). Benitez’s 3.0 steals per game ranks 13th nationally, and her 82 threes are a program single-season record.

Junior Kollyns Scarbrough, a Second Team All-MAAC selection, is second in scoring for Siena at 13.5 points per game (9th in MAAC) and first on the team in rebounds with 6.3 per game. She ranks sixth in the MAAC in field goal percentage (.467). Scarbrough became the 28thmember of Siena’s 1,000 Point Club in the final game of the regular season on Sunday.

Senior Meghan Donohue is also averaging in double figures for the Saints with 12.7 points per contest.

The Saints played two regular season games at the Times Union Center this season going 2-0 with wins there over Monmouth on 1/12/17 and Iona in the regular season finale on 2/26/17.

The winner of this matchup will take on  #1 Quinipiac  on Sunday at 11:00 a.m.

Iona enters the MAAC Tournament as the #5 seed after finishing the regular season with an overall record of 17-12 and a conference record of 12-8.

The Gaels are led by a pair of All-MAAC First Team selections in senior Maria Lizarazu and sophomore Alexis Lewis.

Lizarazu, a 5-8 guard, who was selected to the First Team for the second straight year, finished the regular season ranking seventh in scoring (14.4), second in assists per game (4.0) and fourth in steals (3.1).

Lewis, a 5-10 guard, led Iona and ranked third in the MAAC in scoring averaging 16.2 PPG.  She finished second in the conference in rebounding, averaging 8.1 per game.  Her 10 double-doubles is tied for the league-lead with Rider’s Julia Duggan.

Karynda Dupree, a 6-4 senior forward, also averages in double figures with 10.4 points per game and pulls down 7.7 boards per contest.

Siena and Iona have faced each other in the last two MAAC Tournaments. Last season, the #2 seeded Gaels eliminated the #7 seeded Saints 64-47 in the quarterfinals. In 2015, #5 seed Siena beat #4 seed Iona in the quarterfinals, 71-61.

“I’ve really taken the approach this year that it’s about us and it’s about us playing to our potential,” Jaques said. “We have a very talented team this year. We have a hungry team. We have a lot to prove. We can play with a lot of enthusiasm. We can play loose, and we can just go all out and leave it out there.”

Siena swept the regular season series with Iona winning 58-46 in New Rochelle on 1/10/17 and 57-53 in Albany on Sunday. In the first game, the 46 points allowed was the second least the Saints gave up all season. Benitez led Siena with 15 points while DuPree paced the Gaels with 12 points. In the second matchup, Donohue led the way for the Saints with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Lizarazu scored a game-high 21 points for Iona while Lewis was held scoreless.

“Those games are in the past,” said Benitez. “We have to just focus on the game that’s coming up on Saturday and be focused and ready to play then.”

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