GLENS FALLS, NY – For the third consecutive season, Siena-Bucknell was decided in the final seconds. And for the third time in a row, the Saints emerged victorious. Sophomore guard Nico Clareth broke a 66-all tie with three huge free throws with 56.9 seconds to go to propel Siena Basketball to a 71-68 triumph over defending Patriot League Regular Season Champion Bucknell at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
The clutch Clareth knotted the score at 66-all with 2:04 to go and then in the final minute, with the shot clock set to expire, drew contact attempting a three. Clareth calmly sank each of his attempts to put Siena (4-7, 1-1) back in front for good, and red-shirt senior forward Brett Bisping and senior forward Javion Ogunyemi each added a free throw make in the waning seconds as the Saints eked out another close win over Bucknell (7-4). Siena has now captured all four meetings against the Bison, including the past three years by a combined total of seven points.
The final free throw from Ogunyemi marked the 1,000th point of his career as the local standout from nearby Troy became the 44th player in program history to reach the milestone. He’s the fourth current member of the Saints to eclipse 1,000 points, and the third to achieve the feat in the last month. No other Division I team currently has more than two 1,000-point scorers on its roster.
Bisping led five in double figures for Siena with 17 points and 13 rebounds in recording his third double-double of the season. Clareth added 16 off the bench for the Saints, which were making their first appearance in the North Country in 22 years. Siena defeated Bradley here in the NIT on Mar. 24, 1994 to punch its ticket to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden, and also hosted an exhibition against the USDBL All-Stars prior to the start of the following season.
The Saints started and ended the first half strong. Siena made seven of its first 10 shots to open the contest, and drained their final four attempts of the stanza to cap a 9-1 run and take a 36-29 lead at the break.
The Saints would hold Bucknell at arm’s length for most of the second half, building as much as an 11-point advantage, and still held a 10-point cushion at 62-52 with 6:17 to play. However, the Bison responded with a 12-1 run to reclaim their first lead of the half at 64-63 with 3:39 to play. But Siena, which competed in its third consecutive game which would be decided by four points or less, would bounce back after a pair of tough losses to come out on top.
Zach Thomas led all scorers with 19 points for Bucknell which had entered play winners of five of their previous six and with an RPI of 66 following wins over Vanderbilt and Richmond. Stephen Brown added 16 points, six assists and five steals, and Nana Foulland contributed a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Bison which were playing for the first time in 11 days following their break for final exams.
Ogunyemi finished with 12 points and seniors Lavon Long and Marquis Wright added 10 apiece to round out a balanced attack for the Saints, who were also playing for the first time in eight days due to finals. Siena was also strong collectively at the defensive end, limiting Bucknell to just 36.8% shooting which was more than 10% under their season average.
The Saints will play once more before breaking for the Christmas holiday, when Siena travels to face defending Colonial Athletic Association Regular Season Champion and 2016 NIT participant Hofstra Thursday at 7 p.m. in Hempstead, New York.