Albany County

Siena women’s basketball returns to court, beats Rider

Siena women's basketball coach Ali Jaques is shown during a recent game. (Gazette file photo)

Siena women's basketball coach Ali Jaques is shown during a recent game. (Gazette file photo)

LOUDONVILLE — When was Isis Young convinced the Siena women’s basketball team was actually going to get to play its game Saturday?

Once it had started.

“I don’t believe we’re playing a game until the tip-off happens, and Lala [Watts] wins the tip and the ball is in my hands,” Young said during a postgame teleconference. “Then, I think we’re having a game today. Seriously.”

Siena took the trip last weekend to Buffalo, only to have its two-game series against Canisius postponed the morning before the Saints were set to play their first game since mid-December, as Canisius needed to pause in-person team activities because of a positive COVID-19 test result.

So the Saints needed to wait even longer to play their first game since needing to pause their program’s activities because of a positive COVID-19 test result. Given the chance to play, Siena made the most of the opportunity, and secured its first win of the season with a 73-64 MAAC victory against visiting Rider at Alumni Recreation Center. 

“Just an overall good team win,” Siena head coach Ali Jaques said, “that we needed desperately.”

A late charge from Rider made things interesting, but Siena played well enough in the first half to provide itself plenty of cushion in the final two quarters. Siena led by as many as 19 points in the second half before Rider trailed by as few as four in the final two minutes.

After scoring 44 total points in its previous game, a 32-point loss on Dec. 12 against Fairfield, the Saints scored 51 points before Saturday’s halftime. Siena made 6 of 12 3-pointers in that first half — and that included the Saints missing their final four shots from downtown. 

Five Siena players scored at least eight points in the game’s first two quarters.

“And we needed it,” Jaques said of her team’s great start, which included a 32-point second quarter, “because, otherwise, I’m not sure we would be walking away with the win today.”

Rider pulled within four points with less than two minutes to play, but Siena scored the next six points. From there, the Saints maintained at least a three-possession advantage for the final 1:16.

“Second half got sloppy,” Jaques said. “First half, I thought we were hitting on all cylinders.”

For Siena, Young — a graduate student — scored a career-high 23 points, while senior Rayshel Brown added 16. Watts, a junior, had nine points, 12 rebounds, three steals and blocked two shots.

Rider’s Maya Hyacienth had a dozen points.

Siena (1-2, 1-2) and Rider (0-7, 1-11) will meet again Sunday at 1 p.m. at Alumni Recreation Center.

Of course, after how last weekend played out, Young and her teammates likely will need that game to start before they’re sure the game is definitely happening. Young said the “bus ride back was pretty sad” from Canisius last weekend, and Jaques said she turned her team’s practice the next day into an intrasquad scrimmage.

“I tried to challenge them and run it out of them — the emotional disappointment,” Jaques said.

Still, Young said playing this weekend was “especially tough” for the Saints. With how the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the Saints’ season and the world around them, and with the events that occurred Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol, Young said it wasn’t an easy week for a group of college students to focus on basketball.

“I don’t know. I think we’re just, honestly, trying to pray for our country as a whole, right?” Young said. “That this virus gets under control. That our new president is just able to bring some peace when [he’s inaugurated]. Honestly, I just think it’s a lot going on and, for us, we just have to focus on day by day, and what we need to do.”

Categories: -The Daily Gazette, College Sports, Sports

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