WBI Championship Preview: Siena vs. Louisiana


The Siena women will wrap up one special season on Sunday as they take on Louisiana in the Championship Game of the Women’s Basketball Invitational. Tip off at Earl K. Long Gym in Lafayette, LA. is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET. The Saints are trying to become the first MAAC women’s team and 2nd MAAC team, men or women to win a national postseason tournament. Siena’s men’s team was the first, winning the CBI in 2014.

The game is available to view online for $6.95 at: RaginCajuns.com

The No. 3 seeded Saints (22-12) advanced to the semifinal with a 53-46 win over No. 6 Stony Brook in the opening round, a convincing 69-49 win over No. 2 seed Xavier of the Big East in the quarterfinals and a 65-54 win over Mercer in the semifinal. While hoping for the opportunity to host the final game on their home court, the Saints welcome the opportunity to play one more game, wherever it may be.

“It really doesn’t matter at this point where we play,” said Siena coach Ali Jaques. “If we have to take a bus, a plane and a train and an airboat and whatever they have down in Louisiana we will. We just want to play well and enjoy this last bit of time we have together.”

Siena is led in scoring by senior Tehresa Coles and freshman Margot Hetzke who enter Sunday’s matchup averaging 13.2 and 13.1 points per game respectively.

Coles was named the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year and was an All-MAAC Second Team selection. Her 300 career steals ranks highest in Siena history and 4th most nationally amongst active players. She is one of just 4 players in MAAC history to reach 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 300 steals and 250 assists. She is tied for second on her team in rebounding with 5.0 per contest.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” said Coles on playing for a championship. “That’s like the dream come true as a college player. I feel like that’s something you aim to do every single season and to be able to it your season year, that’s special.”

Hetzke leads Siena in rebounding with 7.4 rebounds per game. She was chosen unanimously as the MAAC Rookie of the Year and was selected to the All-MAAC Third Team. She ranks 7th in the MAAC in scoring and 4th in rebounding.

Sophomore Meghan Donohue also averages in double figures with 10.2 points per game. She is 2nd on the team in rebounding with 5.0 boards per contest and ranks second in the MAAC in field goal percentage with 50.2% shooting.

Senior Ida Krogh is finishing  her career in strong fashion, averaging 7.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Suffering through recurring foot issues through much of the early part of her career, Krogh has spent her final season giving her all on the court as she has now logged more minutes (1,177) than any other MAAC player this year.  Her 152 assists this season is the most by a Saint in 17 years.

In the WBI, Siena is holding its opponents to an average of 49.7 points per game on 32.9% shooting from the field. They have held a +8.7 rebounding margin over the opposition in the tournament.

Playing with just 7 active players in their last 29 games, Siena has improved their win total over last season by 13 which ties for second nationally with UT Arlington for biggest turnarounds. They enter Sunday’s contest having won 8 of their last 9 games. The Saints have thrived away from home this season holding a 12-3 record in true road games.

“We’re like one of the 2nd or 3rd best road teams in the country record wise,” said Jaques. “I think we have great focus on the road. This is a test. It’s not easy to get to Louisiana Lafayette. It’s funny our players were like, Oh we’re going to New Orleans and I’m like, no we’re not. Its gonna be a test for us to get down there and get settled and get acclimated and be able to play for 40 hard minutes or how ever many minutes it takes.”

Siena has outrebounded its opponents in 34 of the last 36 games, dating back to last season. This season they have MADE 510 free throws while opponents have attempted just 473. The Saints average 21.1 free throw attempts per game.

RPI rankings: Siena 168, Loisiana 147

Louisiana enters the game with a record identical to the Saints of 22-12. they finished 6th of 11 teams in the Sun Belt Conference with a 10-10 record. They are making their 2nd post season tournament appearance in program history and the first since appearing in the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

The Ragin Cajuns advanced to his years WBI Finals beating No. 7 seed UT Pan Amecian 78-56, No. 6 seed McNeese St 63-58 and No. 5 seed Oral Roberts 65-64. They pulled out the semifinal win over ORU after trailing by 19 points and despite being outrebounded 37-21 and allowing ORU to shoot 53.7% from the field.

“It was a lot of resilience on their part down 19 and to be able to come back,” said Jaques. “Very athletic, very aggressive, very pressing type of team. It’s interesting ’cause I just told our team in the locker room, we lose our point guard four minutes into our first practice and it only makes sense for our team to have to play a running, pressing team in our last game, our 35th game of the year.”

Louisiana ranks 5th nationally in turnover magin (+7.15). Their 10.6 steals per game led the Sunbelt Conference.

“They’re a quick team and they have a very high-energy press and they really get after it on defense,” said Coles. ” That’s something we’re gonna have to prepare for. Our press break is something that we’re really gonna need to know what we’re doing with.”

The Ragin Cajuns are not known for being a particularly good shooting team as they shoot just  37.8% from the field, 64.4% from the free throw line  and 26.8% from three-point range.

Louisiana is led by a pair of junior guards Keke Veal and Kia Wilridge who are both Third Team All-Sunbelt selections. Veal averages team-highs of 14.8 points and 3.4 assists per game while Wilridge averages 12.5 points and 4.6 boards per game. Sophomore guard Jaylyn Gordon also scores in double figures averaging 13.5 points.

In addition to their identical records of 22-12, the Saints and the Cajuns have had to face similar adversity on their way to the championship game. Like Siena, Louisiana has been forced to play without some of its key components due to injury. Before the season began, UL lost Brooklyn Arceneaux and Silk Okde, its top two scorers from last season. Jasmin Mills tore her ACL late last season and still has not returned to full strength, only playing in a few games this year. Also, an illness in coach Garry Brodhead’s family has forced him to miss both games and practices during the season.

Having come this far, the Saints are not satisfied. Their goal is to keep fighting till the end, as they have all season, to bring home a championship.

“The coach-speak thing to say is that it doesn’t really matter. We’re proud of our team and all that,” said Jaques. “Uh uh.  Not this team. We want to win. We’ll be disappointed if we don’t get it. We have a lot of respect for Louisiana Lafayette, everything they’ve done this year. They’re a very talented team. They’ve got great support in their gym so we certainly have our work cut out for us. But, this team is hungry.”



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