Three Thoughts: Siena 88, Quinnipiac 67

Siena opened MAAC play Friday evening with a resounding 88-67 victory over Quinnipiac to start 1-0 in the conference. After dropping a difficult two-point road loss at Fordham earlier in the week, the Saints looked to be headed to another close game as they entered halftime leading the Bobcats by just two – 40-38. However, Siena blew the doors open early in the second half and never let Quinnipiac get close. Here are three thoughts from Friday evening’s victory:

Sophomore Marquis Wright finds freshman Willem Brandwijk for the alley-oop against Quinnipiac.
Sophomore Marquis Wright finds freshman Willem Brandwijk for the alley-oop against Quinnipiac.

Siena out-muscled the Bobcats in the paint – Quinnipiac defines its program by rebounding success. The Bobcats have been among the top two rebounding squads in the country each of the last four years and currently lead the nation with 48.4 rpg. Despite those accolades, Siena held them in check for most of the night.

The Saints outscored Quinnipiac 44-14 in the paint and put back more than twice as many second-chance opportunities as the Bobcats (18-8). In what is usually the Bobcats’ most dominant category, they out-rebounded Siena by just three, 37-34, with all three of those extra coming as offensive rebounds.

“Vermont got man-handled by that Quinnipiac team and I think that may have been the best thing that happened to us,” head coach Jimmy Patsos said. “We showed them the last few minutes of that. They saw that and I said it can happen again. If you want it to stop then we’ll play together and rebound.”

Four of the five Saints starters finished in double digits, the lone exception being Brett Bisping who left the game early in the second half with what has been reported as a dislocated toe. Overall, Siena shot over 54% from the field and scored to the tune of 1.29 points per possession in what turned out to be their best offensive output of the season.

Whilst the Bobcat bigs struggled, with starting forwards Justin Harris and Ousmane Drame both ending the night in single digits (Harris with six points all at the free throw line and Drame with eight points and seven rebounds) the Siena front court flourished. Starters Lavon Long and Javion Ogunyemi reached double digits with 11 points apiece. Willem Brandwijk added 12 off the bench while guards Marquis Wright and Rob Poole led the scoring with 17 and 12 points respectively.

Quinnipiac needs a consistent second scorer – Zaid Hearst is one of the best talents in the MAAC, and he proved why once again as he led the Bobcats with 15 points. He has scored double digits in each of the Bobcats’ first five games this season, but needs to have a consistent second option to take away defensive pressure.

Giovanni McLean, a junior college transfer from Westchester Community College, was brought in to fill that role but was ruled academically ineligible prior to the start of the season and is currently undergoing further evaluation by the NCAA. In McLean’s absence, a number of guards have shown the ability to fill the stat sheet, but none have been able to do so consistently.

Evan Conti has shown flashes of brilliance in a starting role, including a career high 22-point outburst against Vermont, but has finished in single digits three of the five games so far. Freshman Dimitri Floras hasn’t been heard from since a 14 point coming out party at Albany while James Ford Jr., an established sharpshooter from behind the arc, made just one 3-pointer entering Friday’s game at Siena. Kasim Chandler has done a valiant job facilitating the offense from the point with 4.6 apg, but the sophomore is shooting just under 18% from the field this season and his 14 point performance against Siena was only his second time in double digits this year.

The opportunity is there for anyone to establish themselves as the #2 guard beside Hearst. The question is if any one player will seize the position, or if the Bobcats will continue to rely on a backcourt by committee.

Dr. Jekyll, meet Mr. Hyde – Neither of these teams represents the model of consistency. Quinnipiac opened their season with a 2OT thriller over Yale (who happened to just end UConn’s 68-game winning streak vs. Connecticut-based teams) only to blow a big lead against La Salle and throw up a clunker against Hartford in which they shot 0-15 from behind the arc.

The one common opponent on Siena and Quinnipiac’s schedules thus far has been Vermont. Siena dropped their matchup to the Catamounts at home in the second game in the season, while Quinnipiac controlled their game against Vermont from start to finish.

Siena followed that early loss to Vermont with road victories at St. Bonaventure and Loyola (MD). The Saints looked to be on a roll heading into MAAC play, but inexplicably dropped a road game to a struggling Fordham team sans Jon Severe.

Much like Quinnipiac followed their embarrassing loss to Hartford with a stellar effort against Vermont, Siena responded from their Fordham disaster in impressive fashion. Though they led Quinnipiac by just two points at halftime, the Saints drew off and never looked back once the second half tipped off. They began the frame on a 10-2 run and never let their lead drop below 10 the rest of the way.

It will be interesting to see if and when either of these teams can find a level of consistency that matches expectations. Most preseason predictions had both the Saints and Bobcats in the top half of the MAAC and they will both need to find that consistency down the road in order to finish there.

Vincent Simone covers Quinnipiac, the MAAC, and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.

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