It was a tale of two seniors.
Last year, Siena graduated just one, the magnificent O.D. Anosike, one of the best players in school history. And the program had rarely been in such bad shape.
On Sunday, Senior Day consisted of just one again — Steve Cruz, generously listed at 5-foot-8 and the least-used player on the roster. A walk-on, he had appeared in just seven games for a total of six minutes. And the program is buzzing again.
The contrast could not be more stark.
Siena went two seasons in a row with a skimpy number of players for Senior Day, but whereas they went into the MAAC tournament with little hope of accomplishing anything in 2013, they’ll play Saturday not only with a solid bedrock for next season, but with a pretty good chance to demolish someone else’s house this year.
Jimmy Patsos waived the obligatory honeymoon year, when fans are forgiving of first-year head coaches and patiently allow the relationship to find its footing.
Nope, the Saints swatted aside Monmouth, 70-54, giving Siena its first four-game winning streak since the 2009-10 season.
Lacking a breakout star, the Saints have relied on who ever gets it going in any given game.
Sunday illustrated that to the hilt, as Imoh Silas and Evan Hymes were terrific, the ever-reliable Brett Bisping made 11 of 12 free throws and Rob Poole squeezed out just enough points — four — to reach 1,000 for his career.
With no tournament seeding implications to consider, Patsos was able to start Cruz, whose mom, Annie, watched her son play a Siena game for the first time. Cruz played a few minutes at the beginning and end of the game, and Siena rolled to finish the regular season 11-9 in the MAAC and 15-16 overall.
“I think we exceeded expectations a lot,” Poole said. “Last year, we had eight wins, and I don’t think anyone thought we were going to have 15 wins this year. We were picked 10th in the poll. We really bought into what coach Patsos wants us to do.”
The Saints drew 8,148 at the Times Union Center on Sunday, compared to 6,561 for Anosike’s last home game, a 76-74 loss to Marist.
As popular as Cruz is with his teammates and the fans . . . sorry, Steve, this was not the Cruz factor at work.
It was a fan base re-energized by Patsos and a team that has been figuring out how to win on a regular basis.
“I didn’t know we were going to get 8,100 people in this arena,” Patsos said. “A meaningless game, in terms of the standings, that’s just tremendous.”
“It was amazing,” Cruz said. “I know sometimes a walk-on can be everybody’s shadow, but with this crowd, nobody’s a shadow, everybody’s family.
“The guy is all about winning. He put the winning pride in this program, and I could just see it going back to where it was.”