Siena opened conference play with a vengeance Friday night, dispatching two-time defending champion Manhattan 89-54 in front of 5,727 fans at Times Union Center. It marked the program's largest margin of victory in nearly eight years, and matched the biggest home win since 1997.
"Tonight was about our energy," Siena coach Jimmy Patsos said. "We played with defensive intensity, and I thought we played with a lot of emotion and heart."
Siena placed five players in double figures for the third straight game and eclipsed 80 points for the fourth consecutive contest, two things it hasn't done since its last championship season in 2009-10.
Patsos credited an off-season lunch with former Saints' coach Fran McCaffery for the team's improved transition offense, but this was a historic victory even by McCaffery standards.
The 35-point win was the biggest since McCaffery's third year, when the Saints toppled Dartmouth by the same 89-54 score here on New Year's Eve in 2007. The last time Siena won by more than 35 points at Times Union Center was December 22, 1997, a 105-69 rout of Holy Cross. It marked the program's biggest MAAC victory since a 94-54 win at Rider February 1, 2001.
"I take my hat off to Siena and Jimmy," Manhattan coach Steve Masiello said. "I think they do things the right way and I have a lot of respect for their program."
Siena built a 37-20 lead at halftime by forcing 15 turnovers and taking advantage of 18 Manhattan fouls. The Saints then torched the Jaspers for 52 points on 63% shooting in the second half.
Manhattan got within 43-30 with 16:03 to play, but freshmen Nico Clareth and Kenny Wormely dunked on three straight positions to push the lead back to 17 and Siena never looked back.
"I think the freshmen are growing up a little bit," Patsos said. "That helped us break the lead out a little bit."
Lavon Long led the Saints with 19 points and four steals in 26 minutes. Wormley made all four shots he attempted on his way to a career-best 14 points. He's scored 25 of his 32 points this season in Siena's two home games. Marquis Wright added 14 points, Javion Ogunyemi finished with 13, and Brett Bisping contributed 10 points and seven rebounds. Clareth had nine points off the bench, and classmate Kinnon LaRose contributed five rebounds in 13 valuable minutes.
Siena out-rebounded Manhattan 43-24, marking the sixth straight game the Saints have controlled an advantage on the glass.
The Jaspers were done in by 34 fouls, leading to 44 Siena free throws. The Saints made 31, led by Ogunyemi's 9-10 performance and Long's 9-11 shooting.
"Javion is like a little coach out there," Patsos said. "He just waits and sees what advantages we have."
Siena will try to complete the December MAAC weekend sweep for the first time since, you guessed it 2010, when it travels to play Saint Peter's Sunday.
"We did well coming off a loss, now what are we going to do coming off a win?" Bisping said.