Saints hope to get untracked

Siena hopes to use tonight's game at Rider and sunday's home finale against Marist to get back into

Siena possesses plenty of things that are the envy of the rest of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, including the regular-season title, an automatic National Invit­ation Tournament berth and records of 15-1 in the conference and 22-6 overall.

The Rider Broncs have something the Saints deeply covet, though: mom­entum.

Siena’s came screeching to a halt in a 70-53 loss at Butler on ESPN2 on Saturday.

Rider (8-8, 15-14), meanwhile, has quietly transformed itself from one of the MAAC mystery teams into one of the hottest teams in recent weeks, winning six of its last eight league games to tie Niagara for fifth place with two games left.

The weekend will kick off for Siena at 7 tonight at Rider’s Alumni Gym in Lawrenceville, N.J., followed by Senior Day at 4 p.m. on Sunday against Marist at the Times Union Center.

It’s no secret that as goes senior Ryan Thompson, so go the Broncs, and that’s clearly been in evidence over the last month, during which the 6-foot-6 preseason player of the year has been named MAAC player of the week three times.

In the last nine games, including a 92-89 BracketBusters loss in overtime to Hofstra in which he scored 38 points, Thompson is averaging 23.8 points per game, compared to his season average of 17.1, which is second-best in the MAAC.

Besides his scoring average, all of Thompson’s shooting percentages were better during that stretch than they have been for the season: field goal, .479 (.426 for the season); three-pointers, .400 (.336); and free throws, .866 (.812).

“Ryan Thompson is obviously making a late push for Player of the Year with the numbers he’s putting up,” Siena head coach Fran McCaffery said.

The last two games are meaningless to Siena, in terms of standings and tournament seeding — the Saints will play a quarterfinal game at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 6 — but they want to use the weekend to get back to the kind of play they’ll need to win the tournament championship.

Siena, which hasn’t lost two straight games since the beginning of last season, at the Old Spice Classic, has lost two of its last three.

Last Saturday, the Saints were beaten by a Bulldogs team that decided to take away Siena’s inside duo of Alex Franklin and Ryan Rossiter and dared the Saints to win from the outside.

Junior shooting guard Clarence Jackson thrived, scoring 24 points, but point guard Ronald Moore, whose field-goal percentage has dropped to .307 for the season, was 0-for-9, including 0-for-5 from three-point range.

“We want to go into Rider and play well,” McCaffery said. “We want to play both halves, and we want to make good decisions on the break, good decisions against the zone, we want to have good spacing in our man offense, we want to make sure we defend Ryan Thompson the right way.

“All the things we are going to have to do to win a championship, we want to do on Friday. And then we want to turn around and do it again on Sunday, and go right into the tournament.”

The Saints, led by Franklin’s 16.0 points per game, are the only Div­ision I school with four players averaging at least 14 points per game.

Moore’s assist average was fallen below 8.0 per game, but he still leads the nation at 7.6. He’s averaging 5.8 per game over the last 11 games, including a four-assist, three-turnover day against Butler. He had no assists in the second half.

Rossiter and Franklin rank first and second in the MAAC in field-goal percentage, and Rossiter is eighth in the country at .587. He leads the MAAC in rebounding at 10.7, good for 12th in the country.

Rider’s turnaround has occurred well after the last meeting between the teams, a surprisingly easy 84-62 win for the Saints on Dec. 23 in which Thompson was 1-for-8 and scored four points in 29 minutes.

Siena shot 57.6 percent from the field in the first half and led, 46-30.


All-session tickets for the MAAC tournament are on sale for $104. The pass is good for all 18 games of the tournament with seats located in sections 103-107, 118-122 and select portions of 206-208 and 228-230. Individual tickets are available in lower-level sections 101-102, 108-117, 123-130 and all upper level sections. Prices range from $18.50 a session to $37.50. . . .

The men’s and women’s teams will hold a joint pep rally at the Alumni Recreation Center from 7:30-10 p.m. on Monday in anticipation of the MAAC tournament. The dance and cheer teams and Siena pep band will perform, there will be raffles and giveaways throughout the night and a basketball game between students and friars. Admission is free.

Categories: College Sports

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