Siena College head coach Jimmy Patsos wants his team to push the tempo and throw the ball inside whenever possible.
But he’s not against slowing it down occasionally and taking a clutch three-pointer when needed.
Although the Saints concentrated on scoring in the paint, freshman point guard Marquis Wright nailed a clutch three-pointer with 4:24 to go and then added a layup and two free throws in the final minute to help the Saints clip Hofstra, 67-59, in a non-conference game Monday night before a crowd of 5,941 at the Times Union Center.
The Saints made just two treys all night, but Wright’s trifecta was needed, especially after Hofstra’s Dion Nesmith had just drilled a three-pointer on the previous possession to pull the Pride within 53-51 with five minutes left.
“I thought the play of the game was Marquis Wright hitting that three,” said Patsos. “We had Evan Hymes bring the ball up, and then pass it to Wright. For Marquis to make that three at that time was huge.”
“Coach told me to let Evan bring the ball up and then pass it to me for the three,” said Wright, a pass-first point guard who was just 2-for-10 from beyond the arc coming into the game. “He told me to take the shot, and I did. When coach tells you to take it, you do. I didn’t hesitate. I was confident.”
Brett Bisping scored on a layup off a fine pass from Rob Poole, Hymes converted a three-point play after a driving layup and then Wright scored four straight points down the stretch to help the Saints improve to 4-8. They hadn’t played a home game since their win over St. Bonaventure Nov. 19, and they hadn’t played at all since losing at Canisius Dec. 8.
“The kids played hard,” said Patsos. “The kids adjusted better than my coaching. We wanted the ball inside. We hadn’t seen much zone this year, but we did a pretty good job against it.”
The Pride, coached by former Niagara head coach Joe Mihalich, used a matchup zone for most of the game, but that didn’t stop the Saints from pushing the ball inside whenever possible. They scored 34 of their points in the paint and shot 43.9 percent from the floor. Siena took only nine shots from beyond the arc.
Hofstra (3-7) was 5-for-24 from three-point range. The Pride’s leading scorer, Zeke Upshaw, was averaging just under 20 points per game, but the Saints, especially Poole, held him to just seven points on 2-for-17 shooting from the floor and 1-for-10 from three-point territory.
The balanced Saints got plenty of production from their youngsters and their veterans alike. Freshman Maurice White came off the bench to score 14 points and grab eight rebounds, while fellow freshman Lavon Long produced 14 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots.
Poole, a junior, connected for 14 points, six rebounds and three assists to go along with his excellent defense on Upshaw. Bisping, a sophomore, connected for 10 points.
Patsos was especially proud of the way White played.
“Maurice White kept us in the game in the first half,” Patsos said. “Joe Mihalich told me after the game that No. 23 [White] is my kind of player, and Joe knows MAAC basketball better than anybody. He has more MAAC wins than anybody. He said the Siena fans will like him because he’s a grinder.”
“We struggled a little in the first half, but then we made some shots,” said White. “It feels pretty good to finally play at home. I was ready to play tonight. I wanted to do anything I could to help us win. Coach was telling us to play well before our hometown fans.”
Jamall Robinson topped the Pride with 16 points. Jenkins and Nesmith scored 11 each. Hofstra shot 34.5 percent from the floor.
Siena hosts Fordham Dec. 30.
Allen 1-2 0-0 2, Nwaukoni 0-0 2-2 2, Kone 3-7 1-1 7, Upshaw 2-17 2-2 7, Robinson 6-10 4-6 16, Jenkins 4-10 0-0 11, Nesmith 5-14 0-2 11, Payen 1-3 1-2 3. Totals: 22-63 10-15 59.
Long 6-9 2-2 14, Bisping 4-9 2-4 10, Silas 1-5 2-4 4, Wright 2-7 3-4 8, Poole 5-11 3-3 14, Audu 0-0 0-0 0, Ogunyemi 0-3 0-2 0, Oliver 0-0 0-0 0, Hymes 1-4 1-1 3, White 6-9 2-2 14, Wolfe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 25-57 15-22 67.
Halftime: Siena, 28-23. Three-point goals: Hofstra 5-24 (Upshaw 1-10, Jenkins 3-9, Nesmith 1-5); Siena 2-9 (Bisping 0-1, Wright 1-2, Poole 1-5, Hymes 0-1). Rebounds: Hofstra 40 (Nwaukoni 9, Kone 9), Siena 35 (White 8). Assists: Hofstra 9 (Nesmith 5), Siena 13 (Hymes 4). Total fouls: Hofstra 19, Siena 17. Attendance: 5,941.