Siena’s big men played that way — big — in Saturday’s Albany Cup.
As a result, a huge burden has been lifted from the shoulders of a team that had gone three seasons without beating its intra-city rival.
Led by junior center Javion Ogunyemi, a 6-foot-8 Troy High grad, the Saints pounded the ball inside and blocked 13 shots en route to a 78-70 victory over crosstown rival University at Albany in front of nearly 11,000 at Times Union Center.
Ogunyemi took control of the game late in the second half, after the shorthanded Great Danes, playing without forwards Richard Peters and Travis Charles because of illness, pulled to within 60-57 on a Joe Cremo runner in the lane with 4:50 left.
The agile Siena center scored 10 of his 13 points from that point on, including four monster slams. One, on an alley-oop pass from good friend Marquis Wright, gave the Saints a 68-61 advantage with 1:43 to go.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for Siena against UAlbany.
“Javion was one of those guys who said we had to play this game,” said Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos. “He’s also the guy who said we were going to win this game in the huddle. Javion became the de facto leader for us.”
Ogunyemi, who blocked four shots, said he took this series very personally.
“This means a lot to me, being from this area,” he said. “For me, to finally get a win was very important for us. They beat us the last three years.”
“Javion was blocking shots, and then they were all blocking shots,” Patsos added. “It all started with Javion. He’s the anchor of our defense.”
Siena has five players score in double figures, led by Lavon Long, who poured in 19 points to go along with five assists, three blocked shots and two steals. Brett Bisping contributed 14 points and 15 rebounds. Freshman Nico Clareth scored 14 points, and Wright finished with 12 points and five assists.
“This feels great,” said Long. “Sure, we knew we had lost three in a row to them, but winning at home again was sufficient motivation for me. We don’t like to lose at home.”
The lead changed 10 times, and there were nine ties in this game, which had an electric atmosphere, boosted by the 10,790 fans in attendance.
“It was a really great atmosphere out there tonight,” Patsos said. “That was a great game we just played. Any team that beats Albany will deserve it.”
Despite giving up size and strength up front the Danes stayed in the game because of Peter Hooley and Evan Singletary, who combined for 35 points.
“We started five guards out there at one point,” UAlbany head coach Will Brown said. “I thought Siena played very well. They played with great energy, and they were more physical than us. We played like we were tired, maybe because this was our fourth road game in a row.”
“We had some slip-ups in our defense, and that was on us,” Hooley said. “Without those two guys [Peters and Charles], we had some changes in our rotation.”
Brown said that even though Peters and Charles don’t necessarily score a lot of points, they were crucial to the team’s game plan.
“I might have made a mistake, because I kept telling our guys to keep attacking the rim, because Siena usually commits a lot of fouls.” Brown said. “We tried to force the action, and that might be why Siena had 13 blocked shots,” Brown said.
The UAlbany head coach said he can’t wait for when the series moves to SEFCU Arena for next year’s game.
“We’ll blow the roof off at our place next year,” Brown said.
Rowley 3-6 0-1 6, Stire 0-3 3-4 3, Singletary 5-13 3-4 15, Sanders 3-12 4-5 12, Hooley 7-16 5-8 20, Andrews 0-1 2-2 2, Cremo 3-5 0-0 7, Ennema 2-6 0-0 5. Totals: 23-62 17-24 70.
Long 7-12 4-4 19, Bisping 6-10 2-2 14, Ogunyemi 5-7 3-7 13, Wright 4-10 3-4 12, Wormley 2-2 0-1 4, Oliver 1-5 0-0 2, Clareth 5-10 1-2 14, LaRose 0-0 0-0 0, Fisher 0-1 0-0 0, Silas 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 30-57 13-20 78.
Halftime: Siena 34-32. 3-point goals: UAlbany 7-23 (Singletary 2-7, Sanders 2-5, Hooley 1-5, Andrews 0-1, Cremo 1-2, Ennema 1-3); Siena 5-12 (Long 1-3, Bisping 0-2, Wright 1-2, Oliver 0-1, Clareth 3-4). Rebounds: UAlbany 37 (Rowley 9), Siena 35 (Bisping 15). Assists: UAlbany 7 (Singletary 2, Ennema 2). Personal fouls: UAlbany 17, Siena 21. Officials: Ed Corbett, Brandon Cruz, Andy O’Brien. Attendanc: 10,790.