Without their senior tri-captain forward, without their sophomore starting point guard and sophomore wingman, and without two other freshman who remain unavailable due to eligibility rulings made by the NCAA, the Siena Saints sit at 2-0 on the season after a 65-53 win at Mt. Saint Mary’s Saturday night.
Thanks to an electrifying 30 point performance from freshman point guard Evan Hymes and a double double from senior tri-captain Brandon Walters, the undermanned squad found themselves in a position many wouldn’t have predicted – undefeated. The Saints are about to take a big step up in class, however, as they welcome the St. Bonaventure Bonnies to the Times Union Center on Monday night.
The Bonnies beat the Saints 82-79 in Olean last year in the inaugural Franciscan Cup, which will be played annually for as long as the series lasts between the two Franciscan schools.
St. Bonaventure was picked to finish 4th in the A-10 this year, and after beating Cornell in their first game lost a close contest at Cleveland State on Friday night. Cleveland State is 3-0 on the year, and defeated the then #7 Vanderbilt Commodores in their season opener.
But not only will the Saints have to contend with a team that has a full roster and better athletes than the two teams they just faced, there will be an even larger task to handle on Monday night:
The 6’9″ 250 lb. senior is averaging almost 22 points and 6 rebounds a game. He averaged 21 points and 7 rebounds a game for all of last year. And according to a tweet by Mark Singelais of the Times Union, there will be at least 5 NBA scouts in attendance on Monday night to watch him play. Nicholson could be the best player the team sees all year.
If the Saints are going to contend on Monday night, they will need to continue to minimize their turnovers – Evan Hymes has only 3 through the first two games. Rob Poole will step in to fill the starting spot of injured senior Owen Wignot, and as poised and solid as he has been so far Poole will need to start showing fans the shooting touch he was recruited for. Freshman combo guard Davonte Beard will need to continue his solid play as super sub to both Hymes and senior tri-captain Kyle Downey, who has seemingly returned to form.
Most importantly though, OD Anosike will need to be able to find his scoring touch to go along with the impressive rebounding he has managed thus far. OD has 24 rebounds in the first two games, but only 5 points, and he will need to increase that offensive production to complement Brandon Walters who is managing an impressive senior campaign by averaging almost 12 points and 10 rebounds a game.
While the Bonnies will enter Monday night’s contest as decided favorites, the Saints have yet to roll over. There will not be a huge disparity in size between the starters, and while the Bonnies will have plenty of bodies to roll out all night, the Saints are going to try to continue to make do with the ones they have. Monday night’s game will be a barometer in a season of lowered expectations – will the Saints prove that there is more to them than just a nice little run to start the season, or will their depth be an issue that will be too difficult to overcome.
Tip-off is at 7:00 at TUC.