A big need-it win for Siena

It started before the game, with a Siena student holding a photo of a certain overexposed gasbag and
Brian Bisping of Siena drives past Dallas Enemma of UAlbany at the Times Union Center in Albany Saturday.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Brian Bisping of Siena drives past Dallas Enemma of UAlbany at the Times Union Center in Albany Saturday.

Categories: College Sports, Sports

It started before the game, with a Siena student holding a photo of a certain overexposed gasbag and the message “UALBANY SUPPORTS TRUMP.”

It ended after the game with Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos announcing his candidacy for the presidency, presumably of the United States (I’d vote for him), but knowing Patsos, perhaps of the Grateful Dead fan club or some other worthy body.

“Bipartisanship does exist in this world,” he said while reminding everyone that he’s the first Siena coach in the history of the Albany Cup series between the schools who will ever venture to UAlbany’s SEFCU Arena, next year.

And ex-New York Senate leader Dean Skelos intends to appeal his conviction on corruption charges.

That Was the Week That Was.

There was a lot of politicking going on around here this week, as the Saints and Great Danes renewed their terrific renewed rivalry for the 15th time at the Times Union Center on Saturday.

After Siena’s 78-70 victory, Patsos deflected a question that revived a quote from earlier in the week by his UAlbany counterpart, Will Brown, who suggested that the Saints ought to be the hungrier team after having lost the last three years.

Truth is, as much as UAlbany wanted to win on Saturday, Siena needed to win.

Despite Patsos’ attempt to brush it off as more Will Brown head games, the Saints players concurred with the theory.

“That’s what it feels like,” senior Brett Bisping said, when asked if this was Siena’s biggest win since Patsos came to town three seasons ago.

“I haven’t beaten them since I’ve been here. It lived up to the hype. I mean, I can’t believe people even thought about getting rid of this game. That was a lot of fun.”

Junior center Javion Ogunyemi had struck this theme during the week, too, but he comes at the Albany Cup from a different angle than the other Saints, because he actually lives here, as a product of Section II from Troy High.

No, Siena and Patsos needed this one because it serves as a benchmark for the program.

If you’re Siena, with all its rich history and NCAA Tournament success, you just can’t keep getting beat by Albany.

Make no mistake, Brown has turned the Great Danes into a perennial conference contender in the America East, and this year’s team will give a lot of teams problems, as they did to Siena on Saturday despite missing two big men. Tough, talented team.

But at the intro press conference when Patsos was hired, he vowed to beat the Great Danes — what choice did he have? — and now he has.

I’m not trying to say that Saturday’s win was some grand feather in Patsos’ cap, but if the Saints lose to the Great Danes, it’s not unfair to wonder how much progress the program has actually made, at least when measured against their crosstown neighbor.

It was a good litmus test, and the Saints showed some strong acidity.

“I’m really glad we won, don’t get me wrong, because if I lose three in a row here to Albany . . . ‘So, honey, where we moving next to?’ ” Patsos joked.

Siena’s desire to win this game was reflected in Bisping’s face, which sported scratches and abrasions on the bridge of his nose and cheekbone from a second-half rebounding scrum.

“It was just an all-out brawl for a loose ball and somebody just accidentally hit me in the face and got me right in the eye and I couldn’t see for awhile,” he said. “It was closing up . . . I don’t know, it wasn’t that bad.”

What was bad — in a good way — was Siena’s desperation. How badly did they want to win?

“Very badly. Thinking about it all day. All last night,” Bisping said. “I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. It’s a big game for the community, for our school. For us.”

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