The Siena Saints (8-8, 3-3) and Manhattan Jaspers (11-7, 4-2) are teams that are both rounding in to form, and these two rivals will face each other in a crucial conference matchup at Draddy Gymnasium in Riverdale, NY at 7:00 on Saturday night. Siena will be competing in its second MAAC national game of the week after it’s contest on Thursday as this game will also be broadcast on ESPN3. Doug Sherman and Rob Kennedy will have the call.
The Saints and Jaspers both won on Thursday night, albeit in almost completely opposite ways. The Saints ran out to a 22 point second half lead against the Rider Broncs, but after senior Kyle Downey fouled out with over five minutes to go the Saints would have to fight to hold on and earn the 83-79 victory. Manhattan, which was down 17 points at the half on the road against conference favorite Iona, would crawl back themselves and win on a buzzer beater three pointer by freshman forward Emmy Andujar. The Saints have now won five of their last six games and are looking to try and get over .500, and Manhattan is trying to lay claim to being a legitimate contender to the MAAC conference title – the Jaspers have now beaten the top two preseason conference ranked teams Iona and Fairfield their last two games.
The Jaspers are responding well to new head coach Steve Masiello. Masiello said in an interview this week that the team is emulating everything that he learned at Louisville as an assistant to head coach Rick Pitino, from the plays that they run all the way down to conditioning. The team is led by talented 6’4 junior guard George Beamon, who is averaging 17 points and 6 rebounds a game and doing it all for the Jaspers. Beamon had 21 points in the win against Iona. Thursday night’s hero Andujar is the second leading scorer as a freshman tallying 9 points a night and grabbing 5 rebounds a game. Six other Jaspers average more than 5 points a game, and Masiello can go with a rotation at least nine players deep.
The undermanned Saints found themselves outgunned and outmatched in Madison Square Garden against Iona earlier this month, and this matchup looks to be no better. The Saints may also be without one of the big advantages they’ve had of late – rebounding. The Jaspers and Saints both average 36 rebounds a game, so not only will the Saints need to continue to grab boards, they will need to find a way to keep the Jaspers off the glass.
Like the Rider Broncs Manhattan is also a very good shooting team, averaging 36% from three. Siena was able to continue to excel in the zone and withstand the three point prowess of the Broncs and will need to continue to do work, but the continued defensive intensity and the effort needed to go up and get rebounds will be incredibly difficult to overcome for the short bench.
Luckily for the Saints, OD Anosike is continuing to play at an incredibly high level. The junior forward continues to lead the nation in rebounding with over 12 a game, and pocketed his 12th consecutive double double on Thursday night scoring 23 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Senior forward Brandon Walters reverted to his early season form with a double double of his own Thursday, scoring 14 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Evan Hymes is looking to seal another Freshman of the Week honor on Saturday night after scoring 20 points against the Broncs, and senior Kyle Downey pitched in 11 points before exiting the game.
That leaves the Saints with senior Owen Wignot and freshman Rob Poole to pick up the slack on Saturday. Wignot has been much more effective since returning from injury earlier in the season, and Poole has been doing a whole bunch of everything for the Saints, most recently draining clutch free throws down the stretch Thursday night to help seal the win.
So, will the Jaspers have a bit of a letdown after the huge win on Thursday night? Or will the team continue to build on their momentum and come out strong against the short handed Saints? Will the Saints be able to continue to roll, trying to win their fourth game in a row, with essentially a six man squad? Mitch Buonaguro and company is doing everything they can in game and out to make sure the players stay fresh and prepared – and Saturday night’s game is going to be another big test. It’s likely that this game in NYC is going to be a knockdown drag out fight – Saints fans are going to have to wait and see if their team has got enough gas in the tank to take down another MAAC conference contender.
- Manhattan leads the all time series 46-36, but Siena holds a 30-29 lead since moving up to Division I.
- Siena is averaging 63 points per game for the season, but are averaging 76 points scored in their current three game win streak (Fairfield, Niagara, Rider.)
- Siena held their opponents to 36% from the field during their three game homestand, and 38% over their last six games.
- Siena leads the MAAC for the season in field goal percentage defense at 40%. Manhattan is second in the conference at 40.3%