ALBANY, NY – Siena Basketball shook off an early 10-point deficit and went on to lead by as many as 22 points in an 80-64 Senior Day steamrolling of rival Marist in front of a season-high 7,378 fans at the Times Union Center. Senior guard Marquis Wright led all players with 23 points and seven assists for the Saints, which have captured 18 of the last 22 meetings against their I-87 rivals including nine of the past 10 in Albany.
Siena (15-16, 12-8) finishes the regular season tied for third with Iona in the final MAAC Standings, and will be the No. 4 seed in next week’s conference tournament here in Albany. The Saints will open against fifth seeded Fairfield in the MAAC Quarterfinals Saturday at 9:30 p.m. at the Times Union Center. Siena swept the regular season series from the Stags, winning 80-73 in Albany Dec. 3 and 63-54 in Connecticut Jan. 15.
Sophomore reserve Nico Clareth poured in 22 points, and is now averaging 15.7 points off the bench while scoring in double figures in six of seven games since his return. Siena tied a season-high with 11 threes including six from Clareth, as the Saints continued their recent sharpshooting in improving to 40.1% from the perimeter while averaging 7.9 three-point makes over their past seven games. Prior to that time, Siena had ranked seventh worst nationally in threes (4.5) and 10th worst in three-point field goal percentage (29.4%).
Marist (8-23, 5-15) made 11 threes of their own including 8-11 in the first half, as the Red Foxes opened an early double digit advantage in an opening stanza in which they shot 58.3% overall. But the Saints responded with a 28-13 run to close out the half and take a 45-40 lead at the break, capped by a hail mary pass from senior swing Lavon Long which found red-shirt senior forward Brett Bisping in stride for the final basket of the period.
Siena would build upon its momentum to open the second half, rattling off 11 straight points early in the stanza to build a 16-point lead and cruise to victory. The Saints’ defense clamped down on Marist in the final stanza, limiting the Red Foxes to just 28.6% shooting including only 3-16 from three.
Wright scored 16 of his points in the second half for Siena, to punctuate a stellar February in which he averaged 22.3 points and 5.8 assists in eight contests. Long added 18 points in a solid all-around Senior Day win for the Saints in which all five seniors started, including local walk-on Jimmy Merrill of nearby Rensselaer who earned his first collegiate start.
While Siena continued to build upon its recent success from the perimeter, the Saints excelled once again going to their bread and butter in dominating the interior. Siena, which entered play leading the MAAC with a +6.2 rebound margin in conference play, out-rebounded the Red Foxes 40-25. The Saints held a 40-22 advantage in points in the paint, and a 16-2 margin in second chance points.
Ryan Funk led three players in double figures with 18 points for Marist, which finished tied for 10th in the MAAC with Manhattan, but won a coin flip with the Jaspers to be the No. 10 seed, and will face seventh seeded Canisius in the First Round Thursday night at 7 p.m. Khallid Hart added 17 points, and David Knudsen scored 13 for Marist.
Siena enters the tournament playing its best basketball of the season, as the Saints begin their quest for a sixth MAAC Championship Saturday as winners of 11 of their last 16 games.