Brett Bisping had 16 of his 24 points by halftime as Siena won its fifth of last six games, defeating Manhattan for first win in Riverdale since 2009-10 season, when Saints won MAAC championship. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)
RIVERDALE, NY -- Eighteen days ago, Siena sat 4-11 overall and 1-4 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play, the most recent setback at that point coming in a demoralizing defeat on the road against Niagara.
Since returning from the western New York swing, the Saints have had a renewed energy about them on the hardwood, something head coach Jimmy Patsos credited to a return to fundamental basketball as a potential trap game at Manhattan was on tap Sunday afternoon.
Siena was able to avoid what could have been a complexion-changing pitfall, taking control shortly after the start and defeating the Jaspers convincingly, earning their first win at Draddy Gymnasium since the 2009-10 season to win their fifth contest in their last six since the January 4 loss at the Gallagher Center.
"Back to basics," said Patsos as the Saints (9-12, 6-4 MAAC) were driven by senior forward Brett Bisping's 24 points, 16 of which were scored in the opening stanza. "We went big with Brett at the three, and Evan (Fisher) is giving us some minutes. Lavon (Long) got some huge offensive rebounds for us, that's what he does. He's just a great utility infielder. Every team's got to have a great guy that you don't really know what he does, and that's what Lavon does."
Siena placed four in double figures, with Marquis Wright (18 points, four assists) and Khalil Richard (12 points on 5-for-5 shooting) joining Bisping in the winning cause, while Long had a well-rounded afternoon with 13 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals in an effort Patsos deemed "invaluable." Manhattan (7-14, 2-8 MAAC) was led by Zane Waterman's 14 points as the Jaspers dropped their third straight since defeating Rider nine days ago.
The Saints snatched the initiative in the opening minutes, taking a lead they would never relinquish on an 11-0 run triggered by Bisping and Richard, putting Manhattan in a 14-4 hole at the first media timeout that the home team was ultimately never able to escape. The Jaspers would draw no closer than five points the rest of the way, doing so in the waning moments of the opening stanza. Trailing 36-31 after a Na'Quan Council three-pointer, Zavier Turner missed a layup that would have turned the margin on the scoreboard into a one-possession affair. On the ensuing possession, Long fed Richard for a trifecta of his own, which fueled a 12-4 run that carried over into the second half, keeping the Siena cushion in double digits for the remainder of the game and prompting Steve Masiello to reflect on his team's struggles with an introspective assessment.
"When things don't go the way people want them to, people really struggle," Masiello stated. "If it's not 70 degrees and sunny and the stars aren't aligned, and it's not exactly 4 p.m., and they didn't get exactly eight hours of beauty sleep, young people today struggle with that. Our society struggles with that, and for me; I can't speak for other coaches, I see it more than ever. When adversity comes in, people struggle."
"This might be one of my favorite groups I've ever had," he continued. "They struggle with adversity. We weren't ready when the ball went up today. That's on me, and no one else."
Manhattan starts a three-game road swing Thursday against Niagara, while Siena; having wrapped up a stretch of five games in eleven days, gets a brief respite before entertaining Iona in a pivotal game as it relates to the league standings on Friday at the Times Union Center.
"We're grinding," said Patsos of Siena's resurgence. "From January 1 on, there's been a concentrated effort to play hard, pick up loose balls, swing the ball, hit the open man. We're doing a lot of little things, and you have to. We're weathering it, we're getting tough."