4GuysinBlazers

Siena Faces Nationally Ranked Memphis In Old Spice Classic

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It’s Thanksgiving Day and the Saints are in Orlando to take part in the Old Spice Classic where they meet Memphis, currently ranked 21st in the AP Top 25 poll and #19 in USA Today Coaches Poll. Tip off at the HP Field House is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on ESPN2. For Siena, participating in this high-profile holiday event, although a challenge, is a great opportunity for the program.

“The Old Spice, besides Maui, is probably the second-best tournament in the country. We’re playing really good teams. To be part of that is great. We’re playing Memphis who’s ranked, on national TV, so that’s great for the school,” said Siena 1st-year head coach Jimmy Patsos.

The Saints enter the game with a record of 2-4 following a week which brought them wins against St. Bonaventure and Cornell and a hard-fought 81-73 loss to Purdue on Sunday. The Saints have had four different leading scorers in their first six games. Evan Hymes led the team with 18 points off the bench vs. Purdue.

Depending on outcomes, Siena will face either LSU or St. Joseph’s on Friday. Following a free day on Saturday, they will play an undetermined opponent from the 8-team field which also includes Butler, Oklahoma St., Purdue and Washington St. Although Patsos does not shy away from the opportunity to play high-level teams when he says, “We’ll play anybody, anytime, anywhere,” he knows it will be a tough three games.

“The storm’s always fun when you survive it, in the boat, after it’s over. I don’t wanna be the Perfect Storm. I don’t wanna, not come back. I didn’t like the end of that movie,” he jokes.

Siena faces a huge challenge in Memphis who has had 13 straight 20-win seasons, advancing to 13 straight post season appearances. They enter the game with a record of 2-1 with wins over Austin Peay (95-69) Nicholls State (98-59) and a loss at # 5/8 Oklahoma State (L 101-80). The Tigers finished 2012-13 with an overall record of 31-5 and 16-0 in their final regular season in Conference USA. This season they move to the American Athletic Conference, where they are picked to finish 3rd in the preseason poll behind Louisville and UConn.

“They’re big. They’ve got a couple of big guys. Then they have a couple quick guards. They want to run and they’re an experienced team,” said Patsos. “Josh Pastner’s a good coach, but it’s a neutral court. I love the time, 6:30. Pittsburgh opens at 8:30 and Dallas is playing at 4:30. I hope by like 6 o’clock people are really tired of football and turkey and then want to go basketball.”

The Tigers are led by 6-1 senior guard Joe Jackson, a Preseason American Athletic Conference First Team selection. Jackson, who is currently averaging 13.3 points per game was named to the John R. Wooden Award top 50 and the Bob Cousy Award watch list given to the nation’s top point guard.  Memphis is currently led in scoring by 6-7 freshman Nick King (16.0 ppg. w. 6.3 rpg.) Missouri transfer, Michael Dixon Jr., a 6-1 senior guard, adds 12.7 points and 3.7 rebounds. He was also named to the Bob Cousy Award watch list.

“Everyone’s good. There are no gimmes or easy teams,” said Pastner. “Coach Patsos is a dear, dear friend. He does a great job with his team. They play hard. They’re well coached, run good stuff. This is his first year with them but they compete.

The Saints are currently led in scoring by 6-5 junior guard Rob Poole (15.5 ppg. w/6.3 rpg.), Evan Hymes, a 5-8 junior guard (10.8 ppg.) and 6-6 freshman forward, Lavon Long (9.0 ppg. w/5.3 rpg.). Freshman point guard, currently the MAAC Rookie of the Week, is averaging 5.3 assists and just 2.5 turnovers.

“We’ve gotta do what we do best,” Patsos said. “We’re here to play Siena basketball. We’re gonna run and press, take some threes. If there was no shot clock, would I hold the ball? , maybe. But, there is a shot clock. This is about our kids playing our way. Just gotta keep them from getting second shots. We’ve been battling on the boards for not being the biggest team in the world.”

As always is the case on road trips, Patsos and his team will spend time while in Florida taking in the sites with a planned lunch on the beach and a visit to Cape Canaveral. But, the focus is on basketball and taking advantage of the opportunity.

“This isn’t a trip for fun. This is three important games,” said Patsos. “The game against Memphis is an important game because nobody thinks we have a chance to win but I think we have a chance to win. If we can handle them early I think we can give them a good game and if you can give someone a good game then you have a chance to win.”

Check out our 4Guys Guide To The 2013 Old Spice Classic

See what some of the Saints had to say about: Competing in the Old Spice Classic

Memphis players and head coach Josh Pastner discuss the Old Spice and playing Siena:

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