Albany County

Siena men’s basketball starts MAAC play Friday

5 things to know before conference action gets going for Saints
Siena plays Sunday at Bryant.
Siena plays Sunday at Bryant.

LOUDONVILLE — After a rough start to its season, the Siena College men’s basketball team won two of its final three non-conference games in a six-day span.

Even the loss — sandwiched between wins against Bryant and Holy Cross — represented a solid showing for the Saints, who stayed with Memphis for a full 40 minutes in a four-point road defeat.

“That,” Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos said Thursday, “was probably our best week.”

In all, Siena went 4-9 during its non-conference season, which wrapped last Friday.

This Friday, MAAC play starts for the Saints at Marist with a 7 p.m. tip. Before that game comes around, here are five things to know.

‘The league’s wide open’

Siena was picked to finish sixth in the MAAC preseason poll, but that probably doesn’t mean a whole lot at this point.

“I just think the league’s wide open,” said Patsos, who pointed to Iona, Monmouth and Rider as the likely top teams.

Overall, the league’s teams struggled during November and December. Combined, the conference’s 11 teams posted a 55-78 record in non-conference play. Only three teams — Niagara, Rider and Saint Peter’s — had a winning record heading into MAAC play.

“I think we have as good a chance as anybody,” Patsos said. “I do, and that’s not coach speak.”

That’s because Siena has shown improvement from the season’s first month to its second. Siena was outscored by an average of 12.7 points per game in November, while that margin is down to 4.6 points in December.

With a win Friday against 2-10 Marist, Siena will finish at an even 4-4 for December.

Oduro getting healthy

With some extra days off, Patsos said freshman Prince Oduro (plantar fasciitis) is feeling better.

“Prince is really coming around,” Patsos said.

More than that, Patsos said, the 6-foot-8 freshman is maturing. Oduro found out last week he couldn’t further injure his right foot by playing on it, so he opted to make an early return to the Saints lineup after missing one game.

Originally, Patsos said, Oduro was supposed to miss at least two games. Instead, Oduro told the team’s coaching staff he was good to go after sitting out Siena’s loss to Memphis.

“That’s a grown-up thing,” Patsos said. “He wasn’t going to do that a month ago.”

On the season, Oduro is averaging 8.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in 23.8 minutes per game.

Clareth adapting

After starting the team’s first six games, junior Nico Clareth has come off the bench for the last seven.

That sixth-man role doesn’t look to be going away in the immediate future for Clareth — and that’s probably not the worst thing for the junior.

In six starts this season, Clareth’s averaged 16.3 points on 36.3 percent shooting.

In seven games off the bench, Clareth’s averaged 17.1 points on 43.8 percent shooting.

“He’s embracing that,” freshman Roman Penn said of Clareth’s off-the-bench production.

Patsos said coming off the bench allows Clareth a chance to study the game a bit before he enters it, plus helps him avoid early foul trouble. Clareth hasn’t disagreed with either of those assessments — and the Saints’ improvement has largely come during the stretch in which his role changed.

“We just got to make sure we keep getting better,” Clareth said.

Smithen surging

After registering a series of DNPs earlier this season, redshirt junior Kadeem Smithen has emerged as a key bench piece for the Saints.

Heading into MAAC play, Smithen has played 51 minutes in the team’s last three games after logging nine minutes in the prior six games. In his latest surge, Smithen has played mistake-free basketball — he’s made 4 of 6 shots, grabbed 10 rebounds and had two turnovers — as he’s adapted to a role in which the 6-foot-3, 170-pound player is mainly playing the 4 in the Saints’ offense.

“He’s so versatile and the league’s not that big, so you can play four guards,” Patsos said.

Saints vs. Red Foxes

Siena swept Marist last season and has won 18 of the last 22 meetings between the teams.

Siena junior Evan Fisher said the Saints aren’t looking past Marist, but they are looking to capitalize on a chance to take a win from a 2-10 club.

“We really think we can string a lot of wins together here in MAAC play,” Fisher said.

That, Penn said, starts with putting together a solid effort Friday, a game the freshman point guard said the Saints are heading into with their “momentum going.”

“Now,” Penn said, “we want to kick it off 1-0.”

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter. For more college basketball coverage, head to

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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