Here we go again.
For the first time since Siena joined the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in 1989, the Saints will play an opponent twice in a row during the regular season.
Siena beat Marist on Monday at the Times Union Center, 76-72, and will come right back and play the Red Foxes again at 7 tonight at the McCann Center, where Siena has won just once since Marist joined the conference 10 years ago.
“There aren’t going to be a whole lot of changes,” Siena head coach Fran McCaffery said after the win on Monday. “If we played them three weeks from now, there would be. You’re looking at the same personnel, pretty much. Both teams have a certain style of play. It seems like
every time we play them, it’s a great game, a close game, a hard-fought game, and I expect more of the same on Friday.”
“It almost eliminates it [gameplanning], to be honest,” Marist head coach Matt Brady said. “I think most of the staffs in this league do a tremendous job preparing, and what happens is you go back two, three, four games without playing somebody and you have to re-acquaint yourself, and it takes awhile. You try and take away everything they do, but with this particular game, there’s not a whole lot of prep.
“We’d like to not let Alex Franklin get 20 points and however many rebounds, and we’d like to not let Tay Fisher get a whole bunch of threes.”
Franklin has put together three strong games in a row while nursing a back injury.
He started on Monday and is expected to be on the floor for the opening tap again tonight, along with another new starter, Josh
Duell, who made a big three-pointer near the end of Monday’s game.
McCaffery said he was encouraged by the fact that Franklin has been able to play like he did before he got hurt against Holy Cross on Dec. 22.
“It wasn’t like that for awhile. It was one good game, one bad game, ‘I feel OK, I feel great, I feel horrible,’ ” McCaffery said. “Every game was a dice roll. But the last three games he’s been terrific.
“What he does is he makes the other coach have to worry about what he’s going to do. When he’s not out there, they can worry about [Kenny] Hasbrouck and [Edwin] Ubiles and Fisher and guard them a little closer.”
“We have some guys that can play down there, too, but they’re not powerfully built like Alex,” Brady said. “We need to defend Tay Fisher at the three-point line, not give up offensive rebounds, get better post defense on Alex Franklin and hope they miss some shots. It’s a terrific team, and I’m sure it’ll be a heck of a battle on Friday night.”
Fisher made four of six threes and scored 15 points in 22 minutes off the bench on Monday.
The Saints hold second place in the MAAC at 9-3 overall, one game behind Rider, with Marist, Niagara and Loyola breathing down their necks at 8-4.
Siena will play at Rider on Sunday, and has home games against Loyola and Niagara this month.
“Consistency is what it’s all about, because this month of February is really tough,” Fisher said. “We’re playing the top three, four teams in our league, so we have to stay focused. These are the teams that we’ll possibly see in the conference tournament.”
Despite the close score on Monday, Siena controlled the game throughout the second half.
“I thought they played closer to a 40-minute game than we did, and that continues to be something I struggle with with this group,” Brady said. “We have yet to play a full 40-minute game at both ends of the court.
“There’s tremendous parity in this league, so I said to our kids, we’re not going to bemoan this loss.”
“We didn’t play a picture-perfect game,” McCaffery said. “We had an uncharacteristic eight turnovers in the first half. That was a little disappointing, but we were trying to be aggressive. The second half, we only had five, so I thought Ronald Moore played really well.