Siena still searching for first road victory

At this point, Siena College men’s basketball head coach Jimmy Patsos is tired of excuses.
Khalil Richard and Siena look to earn the team’s first road victory of the season when they visit Florida Gulf Coast tonight.
Khalil Richard and Siena look to earn the team’s first road victory of the season when they visit Florida Gulf Coast tonight.

LOUDONVILLE — At this point, Siena College men’s basketball head coach Jimmy Patsos is tired of excuses. His team, he said, needs to figure out a way to turn a solid road performance into a road victory.
“We’re playing good teams,” Patsos said earlier this week, “and we’re not doing enough things to win.”

Siena (1-1 MAAC, 3-6 overall) will get its latest chance to change that tonight when it heads to “Dunk City” to take on Florida Gulf Coast (5-3) of the Atlantic Sun Conference for an 8 p.m. showdown. That matchup will continue Siena’s early-season trend of playing its toughest opponents on the road, a quirk that has heavily contributed to the Saints’ home/road record split of 3-0 at home and 0-6 elsewhere.

“Tough games are not going away and that’s OK,” Patsos said. “That’s what we’re trying to do here to build the schedule.”

That emphasis, which goes along with enhanced MAAC scheduling guidelines officially set last month in an attempt to better the conference’s standing against other conferences across the country, led to a tougher-than-usual opening schedule for the Saints this season. Three of the team’s first six road games came against teams currently ranked within the top-63 of the RPI, while tonight’s game against Florida Gulf Coast will bring that total to four in seven games. Next season is when things even out for Siena, as programs such as Florida Gulf Coast and St. Bonaventure will return this year’s favor and visit the Saints for games.

Right now, though, Siena needs to figure out a way to prevent another road loss before playing a home-away-from-home game next weekend at Glens Falls Civic Center against Bucknell. Florida Gulf Coast, which made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament in 2013 and won a tournament play-in game last season, won’t make that easy. Since dropping a one-point decision to national power Michigan State, Florida Gulf Coast has rattled off four wins.

Florida Gulf Coast head coach Joe Dooley said his progressing team has been looking forward to facing Siena. Dooley called the Saints one of the “better mid-major programs in the country,” and said he’s interested in seeing how his defense handles taking on a diverse Siena offense.  

“They’re not a team [where you need to worry about one or two players],” Dooley said of the Saints, who have five players averaging double-digit points per game. “They’re very balanced. I think they can beat you in a lot of different ways.”
There could be even more balance than usual tonight for Siena. Around his core five players of redshirt senior forward Brett Bisping, senior forwards Lavon Long and Javion Ogunyemi, senior guard Marquis Wright and sophomore guard Nico Clareth, Patsos said he could shake things up substantially in terms of who plays off his bench.

“You lose a few close games, you try to stick with what you got,” said Patsos, who offered freshman guard Khalil Richard as a player to receive more playing time tonight. “We’ve lost too many.”
Long suffered a foot sprain during Siena’s loss Monday to Rider, but said at Wednesday’s practice he expected to play in tonight’s game. Freshman forward Sammy Friday, who is working back from a sprained knee and missed Siena’s last two games, could return to action tonight.

Before the men’s game, the Siena women’s team will take on Florida Gulf Coast in a 5:15 p.m. tipoff.

Siena (2-5, 1-1) head coach Ali Jaques said Florida Gulf Coast (3-5) should present another tough challenge for her squad.

“They have a very strong mid-major tradition and, what, they were runners-up in the NIT last year?” Jaques said. “Right, yeah, so it doesn’t get any easier.”

With her team allowing 76.4 points per game on defense so far this season, Jaques said the 3-point shooting of Florida Gulf Coast is a top concern. While Florida Gulf Coast has only connected on 28 percent of its long-distance attempts this season, the squad is taking a per-game average of 32.1 attempts from 3-point range.

Siena senior forward Meghan Donohue said the Saints know their effort on defense needs to be better.

“We have the talent to get this done,” she said. “It’s just a matter of coming out every day and working hard.”

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Michael Kelly at 395-3109, [email protected], or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.

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