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Saints get early Christmas present: A home game

Monday, December 23, 2013
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Siena basketball team, Times Union Center.

Times Union Center, Siena basketball team.

Introductions are in order because the Saints haven’t played a home game in over a month, and have only played two all season, even though they’re 11 games into it.

So it will be a welcome change of pace when Siena takes on Hofstra at 7 tonight without having to get on a plane at 7 a.m. or sit on a bus for four hours.

Siena is 3-8, but saw plenty of encouraging signs through the bulk of its non-conference schedule, which will conclude with tonight’s game and a home game against Fordham next Monday.

“We went to Cornell and got home at 2:30 in the morning, then had to get up at 5 to be on a 7 a.m. flight to Purdue,” junior Rob Poole said ruefully. “It was hard, but hopefully, it’ll make us better during the year.”

Because of final exams, Siena hasn’t played at all since Dec. 8 and is coming off a 93-78 loss at Canisius that served as a reminder not to get complacent, coming as it did on the heels of an 84-71 win at Niagara.

If the Saints needed a reminder, they got it on Saturday from head coach Jimmy Patsos, who blistered his players and had them running crosscourt gassers just 10 minutes into practice.

“I don’t see ‘running’ on here, so why are we running?” Patsos said, looking at his practice schedule notes.

He gave the team Friday off to take a tour of Saratoga Springs, but it’s back to business now.

It’s also back to the court for freshman Javion Ogunyemi, the

6-foot-9 Troy High School graduate who hasn’t played since spraining his ankle against St. Bonaventure in the fourth game of the season on Nov. 19.

“As a local kid, this is one of the reasons I came here, was so friends and family could see me,” said Ogunyemi, who will have close to 20 personal supporters at the game.

“I’m still trying to get my footing a little bit. My body’s starting to feel better. I just lost a little bit of chemistry with the guys as they were growing, playing the tougher schedule. When I come back, I’m just going to try to fit in and play off the rest of the guys.”

Ogunyemi started the four games he played, but will come off the bench tonight, a development that likely will continue for the rest of the season, Patsos said.

“What’s good about him is he can play the four or the five,” Patsos said. “Imoh [Silas] can only play the five, and Lavon [Long] can onlyplay the four. Brett’s [Bisping] a little bit of both, but Javion’s a smart kid. He got great grades, too. He’s very quick with the plays.

“He may end up being better coming off the bench. And Imoh’s earned it. Imoh, Brett, Lavon, Poole, Marquis [Wright] are set. Evan’s [Hymes] the sixth man, no problem.”

The game marks the return to the TU Center of a familiar face, coach Joe Mihalich, who left Niagara to coach Hofstra.

The Pride are 3-6 after a 72-67 win over Central Connecticut State.

Patsos expects the Pride to try to slow the game down, especially if point guard Dion Nesmith, who has been out for two weeks with an injury, doesn’t play.

“If this kid plays, they’ll play faster,” Patsos said. “They’re bigger than us, they play zone and they make you beat them from the outside.”

NOTEBOOK

Siena’s staff spent last week finalizing the non-conference schedule, wrapping it up with an agreement to play Bucknell next season.

They’re trying to set up a game against Maryland in a multi-team event for the 2015-16 season. ...

Through last Sunday, Wright ranked 22nd in the country in assists per game (6.2) and second among freshman, behind Marshall’s Kareem Canty. ...

Bisping has scored more points (83) than he did all last season (80) and is averaging 9.4 points and a team-high seven rebounds per game over the last eight while shooting 56 percent from the field.

 
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