The Siena Saints are starting to grind out some momentum, having won four of their last six games, but they’ll face a team even hotter than that tonight.
Marist lost its first nine games under new head coach Jeff Bower, then won its last five, most recently over Fairfield and Canisius in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference games.
They’ll come to the Times Union Center tonight trying to keep that going, but will face a team that is beginning to get its feet under it and will be playing with a decided homecourt advantage.
Tipoff will be approximately 7:15 p.m., depending on when the first half of the double-header ends. The Siena women will play Niagara at 5.
The Saints (2-2, 6-9) are coming off one of their best wins of the season, 62-47, over a well-regarded Rider team. The trick now is to keep it going with a lineup that is a little banged up.
“When they see we beat Rider, the players in the league are going to say, ‘Wow.’ . . . nobody thought we were going to beat Rider,” head coach Jimmy Patsos said. “They know [Anthony] Myles and [Danny] Stewart are great players. They see Siena beat Myles and Stewart, that’s going to wake the players up.
“I’m just saying the buzz around the East Coast is Siena’s better than you thought.”
Freshman Maurice White has missed some practice time this week with knee problems, but is expected to play, and sophomore guard Rich Audu is also nursing a nagging injury.
Siena hasn’t suffered any major injuries, but the small stuff has still hampered Patsos from settling into the eight-man rotation he covets.
“The first five are there, and Evan’s [Hymes] got a lot of miles, but he’s sixth, and now we’ve got to find seven or eight, because the MAAC’s going to be a grind,” he said.
Although the Siena students have been on break and have not been a presence at recent home games, Siena has won its last four at the TU Center, holding opponents to 37 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point range during that stretch.
Rider was leading the country in three-point percentage before the Saints shut them down to the tune of 28 percent.
“We’re still young. We’re 6-9, and we’ve taken some losses and we didn’t play that well at Monmouth,” Patsos said. “I think we’re ready to protect what we’ve earned so far, but we’re not looking past anything, that’s for sure.”
They can’t look past the Red Foxes (2-2, 5-9), who are led in scoring by Chavaughn Lewis (16.7 points per game), a player heavily recruited by both Siena and Patsos when he was at Loyola.
Bower was an assistant at Marist from 1987-95, then spent 15 seasons with the NBA Hornets in a variety of capacities, from scout to head coach to general manager.
The five-game winning streak his team has assembled is the first at Marist since 2007-08.
“Marist is a formidable foe,” Patsos said. “They’ve won five in a row. They beat Canisius, who we didn’t beat, they beat Fairfield, who I haven’t seen, they beat Penn . . . they’re a good team. And it’s a rivalry game, so it’ll be a 40-minute battle.”
Junior forward Marcus Hopper, who is redshirting this season, will transfer after the spring season. He’ll have two years of eligibility remaining.
“I’ve had a great experience at Siena,” Hopper said. “I’m just hoping to find an opportunity where I can play more.”
Hopper will continue to practice with the Saints throughout the season.
“We wish Marcus the best of luck,” Patsos said. “I know this wasn’t easy for him, but I respect and understand the decision.”
Hopper appeared in 27 games in his first two seasons with the Saints, averaging 3.4 minutes per appearance.
The Siena women (1-3, 6-7) are coming off a 78-60 loss to Marist in Poughkeepsie and have a good opportunity to claw their way toward .500 against Niagara.
The Purple Eagles are also 1-3 in the MAAC, and 3-10 overall.
Siena freshman Meghan Donohue earned the MAAC Rookie of the Week for her play in two games last week. . . .
The Albany Police Department and Albany Fire Department will play an exhibition at halftime of the men’s game as a “Heroes Night” fundraiser to benefit the Greater Capital Region United Way.