In its second College Basketball Invitational appearance, Siena didn’t appear to have the same desire or intensity as it did two years ago when it turned a sub-.500 season into a CBI championship.
It was perhaps debatable whether the entire Siena roster was all in for this year’s CBI run, but even a totally inspired group of Saints would have had their hands full with the Morehead State Eagles.
The Eagles, ranked fourth in the country in offensive rebounding, dominated the glass and forced 19 turnovers, including a tournament record 16 steals, en route to an 84-80 victory over the Saints Tuesday in the first round of the CBI at Times Union Center before a crowd of 2,061.
Lyonell Gaines, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound redshirt senior, had a monster night. Although he was averaging just 5.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, the Louisville, Kentucky, product scored 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and made four steals for the 20-12 Eagles, who play the winner of tonight’s Duquesne-Omaha game on Monday night.
Siena, which finished third in the MAAC, ends the season 21-13.
The Eagles placed 11 players in the scoring column and used their superior speed and rebounding to hold off the Saints, who appeared slow and tired for most of the night. Morehead State also made 21 of 24 free throws, including seven of eight in the final minute, when Siena desperately tried to bounce back from a seven-point deficit.
In the end, Morehead State simply outplayed the Saints, but Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos said he was still proud of his team’s season, even though he felt they left a little on the table against the Eagles.
“They [the Eagles] outplayed us on the offensive glass, but we had 21 wins this year, and I’m proud of our guys,” Patsos said. “Still, I told our guys that if they didn’t give up offensive rebounds for scores, they would be all right. Rebounding is about hustle and desire.”
Patsos said the Saints didn’t have the same interest in playing in the CBI as they did two years ago.
“We were scared when we played in the CBI two years ago. This year, we were still upset about not being in the NCAAs,” he said. “The CBI is about who wants to play at this time of year. This is why March basketball is important. We had a couple of guys on our team who were wondering if we should play in this.”
Patsos had special praise for senior Ryan Oliver, who kept the Saints in the game with a season-high 18 points.
“People like Ryan make it worth coaching,” Patsos said. “We would have gotten blown out without Ryan Oliver.”
Oliver agreed that the Saints got off to a slow start.
“In the first few minutes, we were a little off,” he said. “But once we got going, we were all there. I’m very proud to have played here for four years. I got to play in two 20-win seasons and I won a CBI title. Siena is in good hands going further.”
Morehead State’s rebounding prowess was no surprise.
“We knew they would be a great rebounding team, but it was more their guards than their bigs. They were so quick,” Javion Ogunyemi said. “We might have still been thinking about Iona a little bit, but we’re all basketball players. Once the game started, we were trying to win.”
Patsos, whose team placed five players in double-digit scoring, recapped the many positive parts of the season.
“Brett Bisping, who was first-team all-league, was unbelievable for us. He had an amazing season after missing all of the previous year. Javion Ogunyemi was the first Siena player to become Defensive Player of the Year, and Marquis Wright made a great comeback after his injury. Nico Clareth also had a great year for us as a freshman. He tried too hard to win tonight. We had two league award winners and we won 21 games. It was a good season.”
MOREHEAD STATE (84)
Gaines 10-16 0-0 20, Elechi 3-5 4-4 10, Collins 3-6 2-2 9, Moon 4-9 8-8 17, Arrington 3-12 2-4 8, Maitland 1-3 1-2 3, Bitting 1-1 0-0 2, Dicent 1-2 2-2 4, Harris 2-2 0-0 5, Marrero 2-3 0-0 4, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Beamon 0-1 2-2 2. Totals: 30-60 21-24 84.
Ogunyemi 4-7 2-2 10, Bisping 4-9 3-4 12, Wright 5-7 4-5 15, Wormley 1-1 0-0 2, Clareth 5-13 1-4 14, Oliver 7-9 0-0 18, Long 3-9 3-5 9, Fisher 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 29-55 13-20 80.
Halftime: Morehead State 44-43. Three-point goals: Morehead State 3-9 (Gaines 0-1, Collins 1-3, Moon 1-2, Arrington 0-1, Maitland 0-1, Harris 1-1); Siena 9-20 (Bisping 1-5, Wright 1-1, Clareth 3-7, Oliver 4-6, Long 0-1). Rebound: Morehead State 35 (Gaines 11), Siena 26 (Bisping 6). Assists: Morehead State 10 (Moon 2, Maitland 2), Siena 15 (Wright 5). Personal fouls: Morehead State 20, Siena 19. Technical fouls: Bisping. Officials: Guy Pagano, Tom Courtney, Dave DeYoung. Attendance: 2,061.