Siena used an 11-0 run with to break open a close game in the final five minutes in a 63-52 MAAC win over Rider Thursday night at Times Union Center. The Saints improve to 8-0 at home with the victory.
Siena turned to a zone defense and held Rider to the fewest points by an opponent since Illinois State scored 49 in the 2014 CBI.
“I'm learning,” Siena coach Jimmy Patsos said. “I've been a press and running guy since the day I stepped on the basketball court. Maybe we're a zone team. We can go big, and we might have to play zone. You're going to have to grind it out”
Javion Ogunyemi scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half, helping Siena to a 32-30 lead at the break.
Rider collapsed on Ogunyemi in the second half, opening the perimeter, and freshman Nico Clareth took advantage. Clareth made three three-pointers in the final stanza, including a four-point play that gave Siena the lead for good, 51-48, with 6:44 left.
It was 51-50 with 5:08 remaining after Xavier Lundy’s layup for Rider, but the Broncs didn’t score again until 28 seconds were on the clock. Ryan Oliver hit the key shot for Siena, a corner three with 1:38 left that pushed the advantage to six.
Patsos said Clareth told his teammates, ‘It's not how you start, it's how you finish’, in the huddle during the final media timeout.
Kenny Wormley continued his strong play at home with 10 points, four assists and just one turnover in 26 minutes running Siena’s offense. He also did a stellar defensive job on Rider star guard Teddy Okereafor at the top of the zone, limiting him to just 14 points, and two in the second half.
“We're very confident playing at home,” Wormley said. “I feel as though we're not going to lose at home this season.”
The Saints will try to carry the momentum to the road, where they’re just 3-7 this season. They begin their annual Western New York swing at Canisius Sunday afternoon.
“Now we have to beat Canisius,” Patsos said. “We’re 0-5 against them (the last two years).”