Marquis Wright's 21 points led Siena as Saints picked up resilient win at Marist, their fourth straight away from Times Union Center. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)
POUGHKEEPSIE, NY -- Having been around the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference since 2003, Jimmy Patsos recognizes the value of senior leadership to a contending team, maybe a little too much for his own good after falling victim to it in the past several seasons.
Siena's fourth-year head coach was the beneficiary of veteran determination on Saturday, though, as Marquis Wright's team-high 21 points anchored a warrior-like display that ended in the Saints' 84-77 win over Marist at McCann Arena, their fourth consecutive away from Albany and fifth in their last six visiting contests.
"Clearly, 'Quis wouldn't let us lose tonight," Patsos said of the effort posted by Wright, who augmented his offense with six rebounds and six assists while playing a full 40 minutes. "Making free throws, making buckets, he didn't have any turnovers against a really tough team, 'Quis just had that look."
"Coach just wants the ball in my hands to make some plays down the stretch," the senior floor general revealed. "That's what I did, and my teammates were right behind me. They helped me through it."
Wright's stat-stuffing escapades were bolstered by three of his teammates contributing double-figure scoring efforts, one of which came from Nico Clareth as the sophomore parlayed 18 points and 10 rebounds into his first career double-double.
"To see ten rebounds next to Nico's name is very impressive," said Patsos. "I've said when he rebounds, he's one of the top players in the league. Nico's a baller, there's never been any question about that."
In two games since returning from an indefinite leave of absence, Clareth has averaged 16 points and nine rebounds against Iona and Marist, and his explosiveness in the first half helped Siena (12-14, 9-6 MAAC) repel the Red Foxes, who forged a 36-all tie at the intermission by virtue of shooting 50 percent from the floor in the opening stanza.
Marist (6-20, 3-12 MAAC) soldiered on after the break as well, matching the Saints through the first ten minutes and wresting a 57-55 lead away with 9:45 to play in regulation as a layup from senior Khallid Hart; whose 24 points paced all scorers, swished through the net. The visitors took over shortly thereafter, though, uncorking a 15-4 run to take their largest lead of the night, a nine-point cushion that formed a 70-61 advantage with 3:22 on the clock.
The hosts would not go quietly into the night, however, pulling within two points inside the final minute on a three-pointer by Richie Mitchell. The Red Foxes still had a chance to draw close following a pair of Wright free throws that gave Siena a 77-73 lead with 44 seconds left, but Hart missed a layup under the rim and was beaten to the rebound by Clareth, who helped ice the outcome.
"They just made more plays than we did," a crestfallen Mike Maker conceded. "We played our hearts out and they overwhelmed us on the offensive glass in the second half, but wasn't for a lack of effort. I haven't done a good enough job. We're just not winning enough games. We're young, and we'll never use that as a crutch. I have to do a better job putting them in position to use their abilities within what we do."
In addition to outscoring Marist 46-30 in the paint and 19-2 on second chances, Siena also displayed remarkable ball control in committing just four turnovers for the night, only one of which came after halftime. The Saints will look to replicate that effort on Monday when they return home to face MAAC leader Monmouth in a marquee matchup for both sides.
"It's personal," Wright candidly admitted in reference to facing the Hawks; a team he did not compete against last year due to injury, "but not too personal. We really want to get this one."