ALBANY, NY (NEWS10) – Siena celebrated Senior Day by showing 7,636 fans a glimpse of the future. Freshman phenom Nico Clareth erupted for 20 of his game-high 24 points in the first half, and Brett Bisping hauled down 18 rebounds for the fifth time this year in an easy 80-65 victory over Quinnipiac on the final day of the regular season at Times Union Center.
Siena earned its 20th victory and locked up third place in the final MAAC standings. The Saints open Tournament play against the winner of Thursday night’s 6/11 game on Saturday at 7 p.m. here in Albany. It’s the 20th time Siena has won at least 20 games in 75 all-time seasons.
“We’re getting healthy,” Siena coach Jimmy Patsos said. “Marquis (Wright) is getting better. I hope (Brett) is First Team All-League, he better be.”
The victory also provides a big psychological boost. The Saints had lost two straight league games this week, but they rediscovered their mojo early to finish off a 12-2 regular season at Times Union Center.
“I didn’t think we were going to lose this game,” Bisping said. “That was our mentality going into it.”
Siena delivered the knockout blow early, sprinting to a 12-0 lead, and never looked back. Clareth, who started in place of junior Lavon Long (coaches’ decision), had an alley-oop lay up, a 3-pointer and a conventional three-point play during the decisive opening spurt. Patsos credited the energetic start to seniors Ryan Oliver and Imoh Silas.
“We were emotional,” Patsos said. “Imoh Silas is one of the great guys. He thanked me at the end for a great year, even though I didn’t play him a lot. He came off the court at the end and said we have more work to do. Imoh is a great person. Ryan Oliver followed the game plan as much as anyone this year.”
Quinnipiac got no closer than five (16-11) the rest of the way, and Siena led by double figures for the final 25 minutes and 26 seconds.
The Saints shot 49% from the field (52% in the first half), and out-rebounded the nation’s best rebounding team 47-36. Siena improved to 15-0 this season when holding its opponent to fewer than 70 points.
“I think Brett took it personally, that they out-rebound everybody,” Patsos said. “Well, we out-rebounded them by 11, so I guess we win the rebound championship this year.”
Siena’s 13 league victories are its most since 2009-10, when it finished off a run of three straight MAAC Championships on its home floor. Twelve of the 13 wins were by double figures.
Javion Ogunyemi scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half to thwart any thought of a Quinnipiac comeback. Wright rounded out three Saints in double figures with 14 points in his fourth game since returning from a stress fracture. He added six rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Abdulai Bundo scored six of his team-high 14 points from the foul line for Quinnipiac. Siena overcame 23 fouls, compared to just 15 on the Bobcats.
The Saints begin their quest for a sixth MAAC Championship Saturday night at 7 p.m., and they’ll need to win three games in three days to pull it off.
“We have a long way to go,” Patsos said.