Wear and tear on your athletes. Nicks and bruises galore. Fast turn-arounds. These are the problems faced more often by professional basketball coaches than those on the college level.
“I don’t know if I can coach in the NBA. The quick turn-around is amazing. If that’s what they do in the NBA, all I can say it’s a pretty tough thing to do,” said Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos, whose Saints face the Illinois State Redbirds in tonight’s Collegiate Basketball Invitational semifinal at 7 at the Times Union Center.
After an extremely physical game Monday night, Patsos tried to get his banged-up Saints together for a brief practice session Tuesday, but he had some missing links.
“Marquis [Wright] couldn’t go at all, and Rob Poole couldn’t go very long,” Patsos said. “You hope Marquis and Poole absorbed what was said in practice. Marquis has about five little injuries, but he’ll definitely go. Poole just needed a little more time to rest. The thing is, we have night classes, so I couldn’t push the practice back. We spent an hour. I hope it was enough.”
The 17-17 Saints are coming off a thrilling 54-52 victory over Penn State. It was the first time Siena had hosted a Big Ten school at the TUC. Junior guard Evan Hymes scored the game-winning layup with 3.9 seconds to go.
“Evan Hymes is not built for the Big Ten,” said Patsos with a laugh. “For him to make that play with the fake handoff to Poole was simply amazing. I wasn’t sure he would get if off against their big guys.”
Patsos said he’s been getting contributions from his entire roster, something he couldn’t count on earlier in the season.
“What Lavon Long did for us [Monday night] was amazing,” Patsos said about his 6-foot-6 freshman swingman, who scored a career-high 17 points against the Nittany Lions. “He was a four or a five in high school, and now he’s learning to play the three against MAAC teams, which have a lot of quick guards.”
“It’s all experience,” said Long about his recent elevated play. “We had a lot of close games earlier in the season, but we didn’t execute. We’re just doing all the little things right now.”
Junior center Imoh Silas agreed.
“I think it’s a combination of us believing in ourselves and us believing in coach Patsos and his system,” Silas said. “We are much better executing at the end of games, and we’re playing much better defense overall.
“I’m not surprised we’re playing so well now, and that we’ve won a few games in the CBI,” he said. “As far as beating a Big Ten team the other night, we didn’t think that much about it. They were good, but they are just another team that we’re playing now. We’re all playing with a lot of confidence. Our ultimate goal is to win a CBI title, but we’re just taking it one game at a time now.”
Illinois State (18-15, 9-8 Missouri Valley Conference) is the youngest team in the nation among Division I teams with just 21⁄2 years combined NCAA Division I experience.
Daishon Knight (13.3 ppg), Zach Lofton (11.3 ppg) and Bobby Hunter (10.6 ppg) are the Redbirds’ leading scorers. Lofton missed the first two rounds of the CBI because of a suspension.
“I know the Illinois State coach [Dan Muller] and he’s very good,” said Patsos. “They do a good job of trapping out of their 2-3 zone, and you’ve got to be able to handle the ball. If Marquis can’t play a lot, then Evan is going to have to handle the ball more.”
Poole (14.7 ppg), sophomore forward Brett Bisping (10.9 pg) and Hymes (9.1 ppg) are the leading scorers for the Saints. Wright led the MAAC in assists.
The finals will be a best-of-three series.