ALBANY — Late in Saturday’s first half, freshman Roman Penn came off a screen from junior Nico Clareth. Sophomore teammate Khalil Richard lined up in one corner and Clareth popped out to the 3-point line after his screen to give Penn another option on the play.
Penn didn’t hesitate with what he wanted to do.
He gathered, jumped and shot with confidence.
Roman Penn again. Siena up 38-31 right before half pic.twitter.com/VFpyfIBVFh— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) November 25, 2017
“Coming off the screen, it was supposed to be for another player, but I had confidence in me,” Penn said of the play out of a timeout. “I thought I could knock it down. Last couple of games, maybe not — I maybe wouldn’t have shot it.”
But Penn’s growing up for the Siena College men’s basketball team, along with several other young Saints. The team’s freshmen — especially Penn and Prince Oduro — were fantastic Saturday at Times Union Center, as the Saints picked up their first win of the season with an 85-76 victory against Hofstra.
Siena started three freshmen — Christian Bentley, Oduro and Penn — plus Clareth and sophomore Ahsante Shivers in the win. Oduro finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, Penn combined 14 points with 11 assists, and Bentley had 11 points.
Siena wins it 85-76 pic.twitter.com/JN5uWILo75— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) November 25, 2017
Penn’s 11 assists were delivered along with zero turnovers. Penn is the first Siena player to have double-digit assists since Marquis Wright in 2015.
“The young guys are starting to come together and play together — [and] they’re athletic,” said Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos, who used freshmen for 49.0 percent of his team’s minutes against Hofstra.
It paid off. While Clareth played a strong game — he scored 17 points on 11 shots — the junior battled foul trouble throughout the second half, only playing seven minutes after halftime. Instead, the Saints relied largely on Oduro and Penn down the stretch.
“I knew they could do it,” Clareth said. “We’re going to see it a whole lot more. I know it.”
Oduro with the jumper, Clareth with the celebration on the bench. pic.twitter.com/ZUteUXzRPf— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) November 25, 2017
Siena led 38-33 at halftime. The Saints shot 15 of 26 in the first half, including 7 of 9 from 3-point territory. Meanwhile, Hofstra made 12 of 32 shots, but the Pride grabbed nine offensive rebounds in the first half to help themselves out.
Siena (1-4), though, never really let Hofstra (3-3) back into the game after halftime. In a game in which the Saints never trailed, Siena built its lead to a game-high 12 points late in the second half.
Patsos on Siena's start: "The rest of the world doesn't judge us on two weeks of basketball."— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) November 25, 2017
Junior Evan Fisher, who had five points and five rebounds in 28 minutes, said the Saints were confident heading into their second home game of the season.
“After going 0-4, yeah, we didn’t win a game, but I think we learned a lot from it,” Fisher said. “I think that’s what you’re starting to see on the court, is that guys are starting to click — and that’s what we expect.”
Patsos said he reminded his team before Saturday’s game that its season is still young and not beyond repair after an 0-4 start that included two overtime losses on the road.
“The rest of the world doesn’t judge us on two weeks of basketball,” Patsos said.
Clareth said he made it an emphasis before Saturday’s game to make sure his freshmen teammates remembered to have fun on the court.
“When you’re losing and stuff, things can get difficult,” Clareth said. “[Division I] sports are a very demanding thing, and if you’re not having fun, it’s really hard — and things started to get hard.”
But things were plenty fun Saturday for Siena. The Saints shot 30 of 51 from the field and 10 of 17 from 3-point territory. While Hofstra senior Rokas Gustys combined 18 points and 15 rebounds, and junior teammate Justin Wright-Foreman had a game-high 25 points, Siena never faltered during a second half in which Oduro had a pair of rim-rocking dunks and Bentley had one of his own.
Prince just dunked. Hard. pic.twitter.com/z4kzzCW7yh— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) November 25, 2017
“We have a lot of excitement and relief after this one — and it’s great to get my first college win,” Oduro said. “That’s a great feeling.”
Bentley’s turn for a highlight. pic.twitter.com/47Y7e8YSsA— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) November 25, 2017
Now, Siena wants to get some more wins. The Saints next play Wednesday against St. Bonaventure at Times Union Center.
Siena will needs its freshmen to deliver that night, too.
“If we’re going to keep winning,” Fisher said, “they’re going to have to keep playing well.”
Gustys 7-10 4-7 18, Angus 3-4 2-4 8, Wormley 0-3 0-0 0, Wright-Foreman 8-19, 5-7 25, Pemberton 2-12 6-8 11, Radovic 1-5 0-0 3, Buie 1-4 0-0 3, Trueheart 1-3 0-0 2, Ray 2-6 0-0 6, Sabety 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 25-68 17-26 76.
Oduro 8-14 1-2 17, Bentley 4-5 2-2 11, Penn 4-8 4-6 14, Shivers 3-5 2-4 9, Clareth 5-11 3-5 17, Huerter 0-0 2-2 2, Richard 4-5 0-0 10, Horn 0-0 0-0 0, Fisher 2-3 1-2 5. Totals: 30-51 15-23 85.
Halftime score: Siena 38, Hofstra 33. Three-point shooting: Hofstra 9-34 (Wormley 0-1, Wright-Foreman 4-12, Pemberton 1-9, Radovic 1-4, Buie 1-4, Ray 2-4), Siena 10-17 (Bentley 1-1, Penn 2-3, Shivers 1-3, Clareth 4-7, Richard 2-2, Fisher 0-1). Rebounds: Hofstra 33 (Gustys 15), Siena 36 (Oduro 8). Assists: Hofstra 13 (Pemberton 5), Siena 22 (Penn 11). Turnovers: Hofstra 6, Siena 12. Total fouls: Hofstra 19, Siena 19. Fouled out: Clareth. Technicals: None. Attendance: 5,512.