Saints Squander Lead to Danes

For the third time in four years, and second consecutive, the Albany Cup will be in the possession of the Albany Great Danes. Siena squandered a 16 point first half lead to find themselves on the wrong side of a hard fought 74-62 contest.

Don’t let the final score fool you, this game was close. The Saints jumped out to a quick 12-2 start and maintained a double digit lead through most of the first half, pushing it to as many as 16, before a late surge in the half’s final four minutes saw the Danes cut the lead to six, 37-31, heading into the locker room.

Albany maintained the momentum through the first 10 minutes of the second half and found themselves with an 11 point lead against a Siena squad that went ice cold from the field. The Saints weren’t done and woke up the Times Union Center crowd with an 11-0 run to tie the game at 55 with seven minutes to play. In a see-saw battle, the momentum quickly swung back to the Danes. Siena Head Coach was given a dubious technical foul following one of the game’s 48 fouls, this one a shooting foul on Brett Bisping, and the Danes capitalized. Pete Hooley hit both of the free throws awarded for the technical to once again give the Danes the edge. The Saints had one final push in them, taking the lead 58-57 at the 6:07 mark on a Marquis Wright layup, but it was all Danes the rest of the way.

The Saints were plagued by poor shooting in a second half that saw them outscored by Albany 43-25. While the Saints used 4-8 shooting from three to help build their first half lead, they went ice cold shooting 0-16 in the second half. The Saints faired only slightly better from the free throw line, shooting 12-23 from the line and missing several critical shots in the games final minutes that could have swung the momentum and balance of the game their way.

The bright spot was the play of the Saints freshman class. Siena started three: Marquis Wright, Lavon Long, and Javion Ogunyemi. Those three were joined by Maurice White who, though he did not start, earned more playing time than starting two guard Evan Hymes, who himself saw only 18 minutes of action in which he scored three points.

White led the Saints, and tied a game high, with 17 points to go with six rebounds and an assist in 26 minutes of action. White was heavily involved in the Saints offense and displayed an ability to drive to the basket and draw contact. In a game plagued by poor free throw shooting White stood as the one bright spot, shooting 11-14 (yes the rest of the team was a combined 1-9). In his minutes he outplayed Hymes and made a strong case for his inclusion in the starting lineup.

Marquis Wright handled the point well finishing with 6 assists against 3 turnovers to go with 8 points and 5 rebounds. Wright wowed the Saints crowd with displays of his speed and hustle, several times out running a Danes player to lose balls.

Lavon Long fouled out in the game’s final minute but not before reaching double digits in scoring with 11 points on 5-9 shooting to go with 5 rebounds.

Javion Ogunyemi found himself in early foul trouble and only played 12 minutes, but managed to score 6 points, grab a rebound, and two blocked shots.

Perhaps overlooked by the play of Siena’s freshmen, Rob Poole added 15 points and 5 rebounds in the loss.

Off the bench Imoh Silas had a strong game. He still needs to work on finishing with the ball, shooting 1-5 for only two points in 24 minutes, but he was a force on the glass, grabbing 11 rebounds to help fill the void left by O.D. Anosike who led not only the Saints, but also the nation, in rebounding the past two seasons.

While the loss stings, especially given this was a winnable game, it is certainly a learning for the Saints young core. In front of a crowd of 11,311 in their collegiate debut the young Saints went toe to toe with a team that returned a senior core with NCAA Tournament experience. Those facts give hope that this will be the last time for many years that Siena fans will have to watch UAlbany celebrate and hoist the Albany Cup on the Times Union Center floor.

The Saints next travel to Burlington, VT to take on the University of Vermont Catamounts on Tuesday, November, 12.

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