Saints Set to Open Season vs UVM

The offseason is over and the season is finally ready to get under way. After eight long months, the Saints will hit the hardwood tomorrow night in their season opener vs the University of Vermont Catamounts. Tip off is listed on tickets as 7:30, but the game is likely to begin closer to 7:05. The men’s game will begin 20 minutes after the conclusion of the women’s opener vs Fairleigh Dickinson, which tips off at 5:00.

This will be the 29th meeting between the two programs with the Saints holding a 21-7 edge. However, the Catamounts have won the last two meetings. In 2010-11 Vermont snapped the Saints 38 game home winning streak with a 80-76 victory. The Catamounts followed that up with a 64-62 win courtesy of a tip in by Matt Glass with .01 seconds left to spoil a Saints comeback.

The Saints are anchored by senior captain O.D. Anosike. Coming off a dominant season in which he led the nation in rebounding, averaging 12.5 boards a game, Anosike will once again be the focal point of the Saints attack.  Anosike will be joined in the starting lineup by sophomores Evan Hymes and Rob Poole, junior forward Davis Martens, and freshman Ryan Oliver.

Oliver was a late addition to the starting lineup, taking over the two guard slot, filling in for the suspended Rakeem Brookins who was suspended along with fellow red-shirt sophomore Trenity Burdine for violations of Athletic Department policy. Oliver, a smooth shooting guard from California, is a part of a freshman class recruited with a focus on improving the Saints perimeter game. After finishing ninth in the league in three point shooting percentage a year ago, the Saints will rely on the talents of Oliver, combined with more consistent shooting from Rob Poole to force teams to pick their poison in choosing their defensive scheme. Double team Anosike at the risk of giving up the perimeter, or give attention to the perimeter at risk of being dominated inside by Anosike. Time will tell if the Saints can find success on the perimeter, but it will be a critical element to this season’s success.

Evan Hymes will suit up for the Saints despite fighting an achilles injury that held him out of an exhibition game last Saturday vs Skidmore. Hymes was a sparkplug for the Saints last season, dazzling fans with his speed and scoring touch. Hymes reached double figures 23 times last season, and topped 20 on eight occasions including a 30 point outburst against Mount St Mary’s.

Vermont is coming off an America East Championship, and NCAA Tournament victory in the First Four against Lamar. The Catamounts are favored to repeat this season, and will certainly look to continue their win streak against the Saints.

Vermont is anchored by America East All Conference forward Brian Voelkel. The 6’6″ big man led the America East in rebounding last season, averaging 8.6 boards a game, on his way to earning third team All Conference honors and being named America East Tournament Most Outstanding Player. Voelkel is an excellent defender, being named to the conference All-Defensive team, and an able play maker, finishing second last season in the America East in assists with 5.1 per game. During his career, Vermont is 22-7 when Voelkel grabs 10 rebounds or more.

The Catamounts are likely to be without senior team captain Ben Crenca. The 6’10” center has missed both preseason exhibitions with a back injury and is listed as day to day. Last season Crenca started 14 games for Vermont while averaging 4 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.

Luke Apfeld, Vermont’s other team captain, returns for Vermont after averaging 9.9 points a game last season. Apfeld reached double figures 18 times lasr season, including a career high 24 in a game against Towson in which he shot a perfect 11 for 11 from the floor.

At the point the Catamounts start Sandro Carissimo. Carissimo led the team in scoring with 11 in a loss to North Carolina in the NCAA tournament. He averaged 7.1 points per game while finishing second on the team in assists with 2.4 per game.

Siena fans will notice a familiar MAAC face starting for Vermont in Candon Rusin. Rusin sat out last season after transferrin from Marist. He led the Red Foxes in scoring as a freshman, averaging 9.5 points per game, bolstered by 58 three pointers. His 43% field goal percentage from beyond the arc was third best in the MAAC. As a sophmore his scoring output decreased, but he still averaged a healthy 7.8 points per game, while still displaying his accuracy from deep, hitting 47 three pointers.

The Saints will look to carry over the chemistry of last season to this year’s team, and attempt to rekindle the magic from that team’s MAAC Tournament run. This team has the talent and skill to turn heads this season, and a win vs Vermont would be a fantastic way to kick things off.

As always, Lets Go Saints!

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