By Kevin Sweeney
Nico Clareth had 24 points as Siena dominated Quinnipiac 80-65 to finish the regular season in style. The win clinched the 3rd seed in the conference tournament for the Saints, who will begin tournament play Saturday night at 7.
After slow starts put the Saints behind the 8-ball early in their last 2 games, Siena made sure that the trend didn’t continue today, starting the game off on a 12-0 run to set the tone early. It was Clareth who started led the early charge for the Saints, scoring 8 of the points in the run. Those 8 points eclipsed his point totals from either of his previous 2 games. The Saints needed the boost from Clareth to replace the production of Lavon Long, who didn’t play today as punishment for missing practice on Saturday. The strong start propelled the Saints to a 45-27 lead at halftime.
After a fast-paced first half, the game slowed down significantly in the second half. Both teams looked to pound the ball down low whenever possible in the 2nd half. Siena forward Javion Ogunyemi had 14 points in the second period after scoring just 3 in the first half. The Bobcats had more success offensively in the second half, but each push was quickly stopped by a Siena run of their own. The outcome was never in doubt, as the Saints’s lead was over 20 for much of the half.
Another bright spot for the Saints was the play of junior point guard Marquis Wright. Wright had his best game since returning from injury on February 19, scoring 14 points, grabbing 6 rebounds, and making an impact defensively with 4 steals. If the guard duo of Clareth and Wright can compliment the strong post duo of Brett Bisping and Ogunyemi, Siena will be very tough team to beat in the conference tournament.
Before the game, Siena honored seniors Ryan Oliver and Imoh Silas. Silas, a little-used center, received loud applauses each time he entered or checked out of the game.
As for Oliver, Siena coach Jimmy Patsos expressed gratitude for Oliver’s contributions this season, saying “When Marquis [Wright] went down, if it wasn’t for Ryan Oliver, I don’t know where we would be.”
Quinnipiac was led by Abdulai Bundu, who had 14 points and and 6 boards. Chaise Daniels & Gio McLean each added 10 for the Bobcats. Quinnipiac will be relegated to opening round play in the MAAC tournament, playing at either 5 or 7pm Thursday depending on other outcomes tonight.