ALBANY, NY – Sophomore guard Nico Clareth scored the go-ahead basket with 69 seconds left, and classmate Kadeem Smithen sank two clutch free throws in the waning seconds as Siena Basketball snapped a four-game losing streak with a much-needed 56-54 win over Saint Peter’s in front of 6,478 at the Times Union Center. Senior guard Marquis Wright led all scorers with 16 points for the Saints.
Saint Peter’s (6-8, 2-2) capped a 10-3 run to forge the 10th tie of the contest on a Chazz Patterson free throw to make it 51-all with 92 seconds to go. But Clareth put Siena (5-11, 2-3) back in front for good with a clutch, short jumper in the lane on the ensuing possession.
The Saints made key stops on the defensive end on back-to-back possessions, and senior Lavon Long and Smithen connected on 3-4 free throws to push the lead to five with 15 seconds remaining. Nick Griffin drained a three to give the Peacocks life with 5.1 seconds left, and Saint Peter’s would get a look at a halfcourt heave at the buzzer that would have won it, but the attempt was off the mark.
Red-shirt senior forward Brett Bisping, who is averaging a double-double over the past 10 games, still managed to post his fifth of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds despite 26 foul plagued minutes. Senior forward Javion Ogunyemi added 11 points, six rebounds and three rejections, to move past Siena great Ryan Rossiter ’11 for third place on the program’s all-time blocks list with 169.
Griffin paced the Peacocks with 13 points, and Trevis Wyche added 11 in a defensive battle where both teams each were saddled with scoring droughts exceeding five minutes.
Saint Peter’s harbored a 31-29 lead at the break, but the Saints responded with the first six points of the second half and never trailed again. Siena ultimately built as much as a seven-point cushion with 7:07 remaining, in winning for the first time in 11 tries this season when trailing at the half.
The Saints’ defense continued to be stellar at home, as Siena held the Peacocks without a field goal for 10:11 bridging the first and second halves. The Saints are allowing just 65.3 points on 39.6% shooting including 26% from three in six home games, as opposed to allowing their opponents to average 79.8 points per game on the road.
Siena held decided advantages in field goal percentage (46.9% – 34.6%), rebounds (37-26) and points in the paint (36-22) in posting its first win when being held to under 60 points since a 54-52 triumph here over Penn State in the CBI on Mar. 24, 2014.
Siena continues its stretch where it plays three of four at home, when the Saints host Quinnipiac next Thursday on ESPN3. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. from the Times Union Center in the backend of a doubleheader with the women’s team, which precedes the men’s action at 5 p.m.