Saints Open MAAC Season In Western New York

2013-14 mens team picture

The Saints are once again on the road this weekend to open up their 2013-2014 MAAC schedule. They face Niagara on Friday and Canisius on Sunday to begin their 25th season in the conference. The trip will serve as a good barometer to measure the team’s progress following sound performances in a difficult non-conference opening.

“We haven’t quit in any game,” said Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos. “I just want to see now that we’re against Niagara and Canisius, what happens. I’m interested to see, can we execute? Can we grind out some wins?”

Siena enters MAAC play with a record of 2-7. The western NY swing represents games 6 and 7 of a 7-game stretch away from home. The Saints are coming off a 68-63 loss to Purdue on Sunday in their final game of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Florida. In that game they led for the first 39:37 and by as many as 16 points in the second half, before relinquishing the lead in the closing seconds.

Siena coach Jimmy Patsos has indicated that he will stick with the lineup used in the most recent game vs. Purdue since as a unit they gave the team its best start. Expected to start through the month of December are, Marquis Wright, Rob Poole, Lavon Long, Brett Bisping and Imoh Silas.

Freshman center Javion Ogunyemi will make the trip but is considered doubtful to see action this weekend due to an ankle injury suffered on Nov. 15 vs. St Bonaventure.

The Saints are currently led in scoring by junior Rob Poole averaging 14.2 points per game. Fellow junior Evan Hymes averages 10.6 points and freshman Lavon Long adds 9.4. Freshman point guard Marquis Wright leads the MAAC with 5.1 assists per game.

In each of the two games, Siena will face a Preseason All-MAAC First Team selection. Antoine Mason of Niagara is currently leading the nation in scoring (30.1) and Billy Baron of Canisius in the Preseason MAAC Player of the Year. Despite the difficult draw of having to open up MAAC play on the tail end of this road trip, Patsos looks forward to the challenge.

“I like Buffalo,” Patsos said. “You’ve got two great players in Mason leading the country in scoring and Baron. Are we going to do something special against Mason and Baron? Sure, whether it’s coming off screens and at moments you double because you have to. The guy’s the leading scorer in the country. And, Baron I think can play in the pros. He’s like Jimmer. He’s not really a two guard he’s not really a point guard, just a guard and he’s really good.”

Patsos has no magic formula for stopping the two dynamic opponents, but hopes only to contain them.

“We’ll play them pretty straight up and just try to keep them within 20 (points),” said Patsos. “I just don’t want them to have 40. That’s what I’m nervous about. So, it will be a mix. We play a lot of zone these days.”

For the team, they recognize the importance of starting off league play on the right foot and hope to capitalize on the experience gained vs. stiff competition thus far.

“This is definitely, since I’ve been here, the toughest non-conference that I’ve been in and were doing good,” said junior Evan Hymes. “Even though our record’s not where we want it to be, with 3-4 freshmen playing a lot of minutes, we’re doing fine right now. We just want to put 40 minutes together. That’s what Patsos and the coaching staff want us to do and we’ve gotta go out and execute that. We just wanna play this hard going into MAAC. We’ve got one goal coming back from this weekend, trying to be in first place. We’re still 0-0 in the MAAC. The MAAC is where we wanna make our stand.”

“It’s extremely important,” said junior Rob Poole. “I know it’s tough. It’s our first MAAC road schedule going out to Canisius and Niagara. They’re two good teams with two great players. If we can pull out these wins against two good teams it would help us a lot.”

For freshman Lavon Long, rebounding after a tough loss against Purdue and starting the MAAC schedule on the right foot is key. He describes the team’s mood following the final Old Spice game and the desire to move on.

“Devastated. Everyone was just mad and upset cause we should have won but we didn’t put the second half together,” said Long. “We’ve just gotta remember that’s not our season. Our season hasn’t really started yet. It’s really important. I really wanna come out with that first win because I think it will head us in the right direction. It definitely can start our season. They’re winnable games as well. If we can get those under our belt it will really pick up our spirits and lead to more victories. Of course it’s not gonna be easy cause they’re still good teams and it’s gonna be a lot of competition. With the experience we got from playing other (teams) that are higher than us I think it should really help.”



Friday Dec. 6. Tip off 7 p.m. TV: Time Warner Cable Sports (channel 323)

Niagara enters Friday’s game with a record of 1-7 under first year coach Chris Casey. They return home to the Gallagher Center after a six-game road trip. The game marks the 89th all-time meeting between the two teams with Niagara holding a slight edge in the series, 45-43.

The Purple Eagles have won the last four times vs. the Saints most recently in the 2013 MAAC Tournament quarterfinals. Antoine Mason led Niagara with 21 points and Rob Poole and Evan Hymes each had 14 for Siena.

The Purple Eagles are led by 6-3 R-Jr. guard, Antoine Mason who currently leads the nation in scoring averaging 30.1 points per game. He has scored 30 or more points in 6 out of 7 games this season. 5-11 Senior Marvin Jordan adds 16.5 points.

As a team Niagara leads the MAAC averaging 81.5 points per contest. Their roster includes a remarkable 10 newcomers following the departure of long time head coach Joe Mihalich who left to serve as head coach at Hofstra.

Niagara Results:

Seton Hall Newark, NJ  L 72-83

Buffalo Niagara Univ., NY W 92-81

USC Upstate Kent, Ohio  L 74-83

Western Carolina Kent, Ohio  L 90-98

Kent State Kent, Ohio  L 97-102

Penn Philadelphia, PA L 66-85

Northwestern State Natchitoches, LA L 100-107

Arkansas State Jonesboro, AR L 61-86



Sunday, Dec. 8. Tipoff 2 p.m.

Canisius enters MAAC play this weekend with a record of 3-3. They return home for the first time in 25 days to face St. Peter’s in the league opener on Friday night before taking on the Saints on Sunday. The two teams will be meeting for the 90th time with Siena leading the series, 51-38 all time. The two teams split last season with each team winning on their home court.

Canisius is coming off an 83-69 loss to Metro State Nov. 26 in the final game of the 2013 NIT Season Tip Off. Metro State is currently the No. 1 ranked team at the NCAA Division II level.

The Griffs went 2-2 in the NIT Season Tip Off this season, defeating Elon and Georgia State, while falling to Rutgers and Metro State.

Senior guard Billy Baron, the Preseason MAAC Player of the Year, leads Canisius and ranks third in the MAAC, averaging 21.5 points per game. That average ranks 31st in the nation (as of Dec. 2). Fellow senior Chris Perez is second on the team and is tied for 17th in the league scoring 13.0 points per game.

Canisius Results:

South Dakota  Koessler Athletic Center  71 – 66 (W)

St. Bonaventure  Olean, N.Y.  64 – 86 (L)

2013 NIT Season Tip Off

Rutgers  Piscataway, N.J. 51 – 66 (L)

Elon  Piscataway, N.J.  86 – 85 (W)

Georgia State  Elon, N.C. 79 – 71 (W)

Metro State  Elon, N.C. 69 – 83 (L)

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