Siena vs. Iona: Saints hope to keep home streak going
The Siena Saints barely get a moment to breathe after Friday night’s game.
Perhaps oxygen is overrated.
The Saints come right back with a 2 p.m. game today against Iona at the Times Union Center without much time to prepare.
That’s fine, because the Saints are eager to get out there again, especially because of how they’ve been playing at home.
“It’s on to the next one,” Siena sophomore forward Brett Bisping said after Siena beat Marist, 67-58, on Friday. “Quick turnaround, it’s part of basketball, especially this time of year when it starts to pick up. But we’ll be ready.”
Siena has won four of its last five games and has won its last five at home to improve to 7-9 overall and 3-2 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conferece, which has a logjam of four 4-1 teams at the top.
One of them is the high-scoring Iona Gaels (7-7), who average 82.5 points per game and have two players, Sean Armand and A.J. English, among the top three in three-pointers in the MAAC and another, David Laury, who leads the MAAC in field goal percentage.
Two players on Siena’s roster, juniors Evan Hymes and Rob Poole, can appreciate the explosive three-point ability of Armand, having witnessed his 10-for-19, 32-point performance in a blowout at Madison Square Garden two years ago when they were freshmen.
“Keep [point guard Tavon] Sledge out of the lane, keep Laury in check down low and we’ll be alright,” Hymes said. “They like to push the ball, so we’ve got to sprint back on defense. That’s the first thing. We can’t give up any transition points.”
Siena has consistently been drawing 6,000 per home game despite the students having been on holiday and semester break.
They’ve rewarded the faithful with wins over St. Bonaventure (back on Nov. 19), Hofstra, Fordham, Rider and Marist.
The Saints’ only home loss has been the season opener against UAlbany.
“We really appreciate all the support we get through our ups and downs and want to say thank you for that, obviously, but also, it’s a pride thing,” Bisping said. “You want to protect your corner. Protect your home court.”
After just one double-digit scoring game in the first 28 games of his career, Bisping has had at least 10 points in nine of his last 13 games.
He had 16 points and a career-high 14 rebounds against Marist, and has proven to be an anchor on the front line as head coach Jimmy Patsos continues to search for a consistent seven- or eight-man rotation.
“Brett’s playing at a high level right now,” Hymes said. “He takes no days off, and that’s the sign of a great player. If you can get that manifested throughout the team, we’ll definitely be a dangerous team come around March.”
If that’s to be the case, a few of the freshmen are going to have to be more reliable in their constant effort, Patsos said.
After the win over the Red Foxes, he promised to have “a little chat” with two of his important recruits, Lavon Long and Maurice White, about their consistency.
“I’m not saying Lavon Long didn’t play well, but we’re going to need him to play with a little more intensity,” Patsos said. “He’s a really a good player, but he gets disinterested every once in awhile.
“I said to him and Maurice White that I’m really disappointed in the two Baltimore kids acting a little disinterested in tonight’s game, because that’s not what we do in Baltimore, whether it’s the Ravens, Loyola, when I coached at Maryland. We play with intensity and hunger until the end of the whistle.”
The MAAC was idle on Saturday.
Iona is tied with Quinnipiac, Manhattan and Canisius for first, and Siena is tied with Rider one game behind them.