Who needs sleep, anyway?
The Siena women’s basketball team had reached a sort of moribund state, with eight straight losing seasons, but new head coach Ali Jaques and the Saints opened some eyes with a convincing 76-56 win over Fairleigh Dickinson at the Times Union Center on Friday night.
Senior captain Lily Grenci had 19 points and 12 rebounds, and Siena shook off a slow start to handle the Knights with authority in the second half.
An assistant at six different schools before being hired to replace Gina Castelli, Jaques said she was beating the alarm clock all week in anticipation of her head coaching debut.
After the win, she was finally able to take a breath and relax.
“I got up Wednesday morning at four, I don’t know what it was, but it was Wednesday, and it hit me,” she said. “Maybe it was because we played so well on Monday night in the scrimmage, and I was concerned how we would react to that.
“This getting-up-early thing has got to stop. I need to get some sleep. I don’t know if I will for the next few months, but that’s OK. I’ll take it, if we’re going to get wins like this.”
Grenci, the only senior on the team, said the team had some extra motivation to get a win for their new coach.
“Absolutely. But I think we all just wanted to win as a team for Siena basketball, too,” she said.
It took the Saints a little while to get cranking, but once they did, midway through the first half, they never let the Knights within 10 the rest of the way.
Colonie High graduate Tehresa Coles made back-to-back three-pointers to give Siena a 29-17 lead.
“T-Coles really sparked a run for us, hit a three, and I already had a sub at the table to get her out, so I felt kind of bad about that,” Jaques said, laughing. “But it’s only a matter of time before these guys really, really start believing in themselves.”
Siena took its first lead of the game, 17-16, midway through the first half on a basket by Kate Zarotney that occurred during a 9-0 run.
After a free throw by Desiree Crawford cut it to 19-17, Siena went on a 10-0 run capped by two three-pointers by Coles for a 29-17 lead.
The Saints extended it to 34-19 on another three by Grenci and led at halftime, 39-27.
A three by Grenci gave Siena a 55-40 lead midway through the second half.
FDU got within 10 twice with plenty of time on the clock before Kelsey Booth made a three to put the Saints ahead, 62-49, with under eight minutes left.
She made another three, and Coles set up Zarotney in transition for a 67-51 lead with 4:32 left.
“We started off a bit slow, but once we got running, we got a little bit of confidence and did a good job,” Jaques said. “Lily played like a senior plays and did a great job, but our post game, in general, played well.
“Great first win, and, for me . . . I don’t know if I really have that many words right now.
“It’s been a little bit of an emotional week. It’s good to have this one over with and get out with a win.”
Siena was terrific from three-point range, making nine of 18.
Clara Sole Anglada had 14 points and eight rebounds for Siena, and Danielle Pankey and Erika Livermore led FDU with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON (56)
Crawford 2-6 2-3 6, Pankey 7-15 0-2 15, Livermore 5-13 4-6 14, Isaacs 2-12 3-3 8, Andrades 1-2 0-0 3, Childs 3-8 1-2 7, Grant 0-4 0-0 0, Coyne 0-0 0-0 0, Nunes 0-5 0-0 0, Williams 0-0 3-4 3, Cruz 0-1 0-0 0, Cherubin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-66 13-20 56.
Grenci 5-15 7-8 19, Sole 5-11 2-6 14, Krogh 0-3 2-2 2, Stewart 1-6 5-7 7, Coles 2-9 0-1 6, Mullings 1-3 1-2 3, Kelly 0-1 0-0 0, Mintah 2-2 0-0 4, Cummings 1-3 0-0 2, Zarotney 4-6 2-2 10, Lysius Cote 0-0 0-0 0, Booth 3-6 0-0 9. Totals: 24-65 19-28 76.
Halftime: Siena 39-27. Three-point goals: FDU 3-24 (Pankey 1-6, Isaacs 1-8, Andrades 1-2, Grant 0-4, Nunes 0-4); Siena 9-18 (Grenci 2-4, Sole 2-3, Krogh 0-2, Coles 2-2, Cummings 0-1, Booth 3-6). Rebounds: FDU 44 (Livermore 14); Siena 51 (Grenci 12). Assists: FDU 9 (Andrades 4); Siena 18 (Coles 6). Total fouls: FDU 21; Siena 17. Fouled out: Crawford, Kelly. Attendance: 945.