ALBANY, NY – Sophomore guard Nico Clareth came off the bench to explode for a career-high 33 points to lead Siena Basketball past Fairfield 80-73 in its MAAC opener at the Times Union Center. Clareth fueled an 18-0 run early, and a decisive 15-2 spurt, late to propel Jimmy Patsos to his 200th career head coaching victory.
Clareth delivered several thunderous dunks and drained a career-high seven threes in tying Rob Poole (2014) for the highest scoring output by a Siena (3-5, 1-0) player since Ryan Rossiter tallied 34 points here on his Senior Day vs. Marist on Feb. 27, 2011. The 33 points scored by Clareth marked the third most by a Division I reserve this season.
Senior forward Javion Ogunyemi added 17 points and seven rebounds and classmate Lavon Long contributed 13 points on 6-9 shooting for the Saints which improved to 20-8 all-time in MAAC openers, including a perfect 4-0 under Patsos.
The MAAC’s leading scorer Tyler Nelson paced Fairfield (5-2, 1-1) with 23 points, while Curtis Cobb contributed 19 points and eight rebounds. The conference’s top rebounder Amadou Sidibe recorded his fourth straight double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Siena came out gangbusters to open its 28th MAAC season. The Saints reeled off 18 unanswered points over just 3:50 to race out to a 27-8 lead just over eight minutes into the contest. Siena went on a streak where they made 10 of 11 shots – including 7-8 during their run – which featured four Clareth threes. The Saints would ultimately take a 42-32 lead into the break.
Siena built its advantage to a seemingly comfortable 16-point cushion at 58-42 with 12:42 to play, but the Stags pulled off a furious rally in a heavyweight bout between two teams projected to finish in the top-five in the MAAC. Fairfield punched back with a 16-0 run to come all the way back from their early 19-point deficit, and draw even at 58-all on a Matija Milin layup with 7:54 to go.
However on this night, it would be Clareth and the Saints who would deliver the final blow. Siena responded with its decisive spurt over 3:50 highlighted by 11 points from Clareth, which was capped by a four-point play to stake the Saints to a 73-70 advantage with 3:46 remaining which served as the knockout punch.
Senior guard Marquis Wright narrowly missed a triple-double with nine points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and red-shirt senior forward Brett Bisping chipped in eight points and 12 rebounds to help lead Patsos to his milestone win. Siena’s head coach posted his initial 145 victories at former MAAC foe Loyola (2004-13), and has accumulated 55 wins over his first three-plus seasons guiding the Saints.
Siena concludes its annual December MAAC opening weekend when the Saints travel to Rider for a 7 p.m. tip Monday night in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.