Siena was dragged kicking and screaming into a more defensive-minded posture on Thursday.
Head coach Fran McCaffery has said he’s been waiting for the Saints’ defense to approach what he believes they’ll need to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
He got it, by default, in the 64-53 win over Saint Peter’s at the Times Union Center.
The Peacocks run set plays pretty much every time down the floor, plus the score stayed close well inside of the final 10 minutes, which forced Siena to buckle down defensively for the whole game, something the Saints hadn’t done until then.
That, and another solid game from the free-throw line, were the most encouraging signs for the Saints (9-4) as they head into tonight’s home game at 7 against Mount St. Mary’s (3-9) of the Northeast Conference. “I thought our defense was phenomenal the entire game,” McCaffery said. “They shot 35 percent in the first half and 35 percent in the second half. When your shots are going easy, it’s easy to win.
“We didn’t start the game particularly well, the jump shots weren’t falling and we had to really compete on every possession.”
Siena was bound to experience some dropoff on defense this season, with Clarence Jackson joining the starting lineup in place of the graduated Kenny Hasbrouck, a lockdown player capable of guarding three different positions who was always assigned the opponent’s best scorer, as long as it wasn’t an inside player.
Still, McCaffery believes the Saints can be a good defensive team from start to finish, especially with the 6-foot-7 Edwin Ubiles at the front of a 1-2-2 press.
The coach credited Ubiles with playing stiff man defense on the small but quick point guard Nick Leon in the second half against Saint Peter’s.
In general, Ubiles looks like a completely different player since he got his right knee healthy, and was able to shed the brace he was wearing.
He scored 21 points against the Peacocks to push his season average to 14.0 points per game, behind Alex Franklin (15.5) and Jackson (15.4) for the team lead.
“He’s feeling better,” McCaffery said. “That stretch of games where he was essentially non-existent — it wasn’t him. That’s why we had to shut him down. He had no explosiveness at all. Now, he’s making plays, and that’s what he does. It’s also great to see him on the glass.”
Ubiles had nine rebounds against Saint Peter’s and eight against Rider on Dec. 23.
Siena took advantage of a whopping 28-10 disparity in fouls against the Peacocks by making 26 of 35 free throws, after making 23 of 30 against Saint Joseph’s and 17 of 25 against Rider.
Jackson, with the best percentage on the team among starters, was 4-for-8 against Saint Peter’s, and the rest of the team was 22-for-27.
“We have good shooters, we should be shooting it well from the line,” McCaffery said. “Ironically, the guy who was leading us coming in was the only one who didn’t knock them down.”
McCaffery said he was impressed with the play of freshman Davis Martens, a 6-9, 220-pound native of Cologne, Germany, who got seven minutes in the first half in his first appearance in a Siena uniform.
He sat out the first 12 games by NCAA rules because he played as an amateur against pros in Germany. Martens showed good mobility and agility for a big man and bolsters a bench that also added La Salle transfer Kyle Griffin, a 6-4 combo guard three games ago.
“I thought he [Martens] was tremendous,” McCaffery said. “I would have liked to have given him more playing time. It was one of those games where I thought the game was in the balance every possession, so I went with my experience. I don’t like to shut down my bench the entire second half.
“He was active, he was on the glass and he’s going to be really good.”
Fans attending tonight’s game are urged to bring donations of canned or non-perishable food items, such as canned vegetables, tuna, soups, pasta and rice, to help replenish post-holiday food supplies at the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York. Collection bins will be situated at all entrances to the arena. Representatives from the Regional Food Bank will be selling raffle tickets for a chance to win a variety of exclusive Siena merchandise and prizes. All proceeds from the raffle will benefit the Food Bank. . . .
Siena and Mount St. Mary’s have played twice before . . . in the 1940’s. Siena won both games.
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Categories: College Sports