Seniors Carry Saints to Semifinals

ALBANY, NY – Siena Basketball’s decorated senior class wasn’t about to let their collegiate careers come to an end. The quartet combined for 65 points to lead the fourth seeded Saints past No. 5 seed Fairfield 78-66 in the MAAC Quarterfinals at the Times Union Center.

Siena (16-16) advances to the MAAC Semifinals for the second straight year where they will face regular season champion and top seed Monmouth Sunday at 4:30 p.m. The Hawks swept the regular season series from the Saints, winning 102-82 in Albany on Feb. 13 and 77-73 on the Jersey Shore Feb. 24.

Siena used a 16-0 run early, and a 10-0 spurt late to improve to 7-1 all-time in the MAAC Tournament against Fairfield (16-14), including a perfect 7-0 in Albany, 5-0 as the higher seed, and 4-0 in the quarterfinals.

Senior forward Javion Ogunyemi scored 24 points and added nine rebounds, and classmate Lavon Long poured in 17 for the Saints which have won 18 of their last 22 MAAC Tournament games here in Albany over the past 15 years. Second Team All-MAAC selection Brett Bisping added his 12th double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while becoming just the fourth player in program history to eclipse 1,000 rebounds for his career.

Siena jumped on Fairfield early in racing out to a 20-8 start. The Saints held the Stags without a field goal for 8:51 during their early run, and limited Fairfield to just 32.1% shooting in the opening half in taking a 38-27 lead at the break.

Siena held the Stags at arm’s length thereafter, with Fairfield never getting any closer than five in the second half. Ogunyemi delivered the knockout punch, scoring eight of the Saints’ 10 points during their decisive 62-second run which pushed the lead to a game-high 15 with 6:53 to play.

First Team All-MAAC selection Tyler Nelson led all scorers with 25 points, albeit on just 6-20 shooting for the Stags which were 39.3% from the field. Matija Milin added 14 points, and Amadou Sidibe scored 10 for Fairfield which had entered the Tournament winners of eight of their previous 11.

Second Team All-MAAC selection Marquis Wright rounded out Siena’s double figure scorers with 12 points and five assists for the Saints, which persevered despite the absence of red-hot sixth man Nico Clareth who remains day-to-day after missing the game with an ankle injury.

The Saints will have little time to savor their quarterfinal victory however, as they have less than 17 hours from the time the final buzzer sounded to prepare for a Monmouth squad which carries the nation’s second longest active winning streak at 17 straight.

 

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