Siena Seeking Answers Defensively

One of the reasons Jimmy Patsos was able to turn around the Siena program so quickly was the players’ commitment to the defensive end.

Last season, the Saints ranked fourth in the MAAC in defense giving up 70 points per game, but this season the defense has struggled. Entering a trip to conference foes Canisius and Niagara, the Saints defense has allowed 75.7 points per game, ranking second to last. Only Iona (75.8 ppg) has given up more.

On Sunday those problems reared their ugly head again, allowing Fairfield — who rank ninth in scoring offense — to score 79 points, one off their season-high.

“You can’t just keep giving up 50% and say you’re going to win games,” Patsos said of his team’s field goal percentage defense, referring to the Stags shooting 55.3% in the loss.

This season the Saints have given up three-pointers at a higher clip, which has led to part of the downfall defensively. Last season they allowed teams to shoot 33% from three-point range, but this year that stat has regressed to 38.4%. That just over five percentage point jump has moved their ranking from last season’s 99th to 341st in the country.

Sophomore Javion Ogunyemi has helped pick up the slack inside through the Saints injuries.

“Defense is a mentality, you have to at some point get angry enough to say to yourself, ‘I’m not going to let that guy make any more threes on me,'” Patsos said. “I don’t see that in us yet, whether that’s depth, whether that’s being a little bit tired, whether that’s teams being fresher than us — because they have more rest than us which is okay — but we play everybody twice.”

Last season Siena ranked second in the conference with 4.7 bpg, but this season they rank sixth with 3.1 bpg. The main reason for the slight regression has been the loss of Imoh Silas to an ACL tear during the preseason. The 6’8″ senior, who will redshirt this season, averaged 1.7 bpg in his career entering this season. However, the front court took a further hit when the Saints lost Brett Bisping to injury. The 6’8″ junior, who had a pin removed in his right big toe this week, will decide in February whether he will redshirt or play the rest of the season.

“We know what to do, I’ve got some other people that don’t want to do that, that’s on me,” Patsos said. “I’m trying to teach them. They’re young, there’s new guys playing different positions. When you’re hurt, you don’t want to take a charge as much as as you used to.”

“We are pressing running team and that wears teams down. The last thing they did, instead of dunking on us, instead getting it swatted by Imoh Silas. It was a real momentum changer, Brett taking a charge at the back of the press was really good. We’re not as deep as we were, maybe we should not press as much, teams shooting against us.”

Patsos said he might tinker with the starting lineup prior to their next game at Canisius, but he believes there is an opportunity for bench players to earn minutes on defense.

“What’s interesting to me is that there’s some minutes out there for somebody that wants to really commit to being that guy,” Patsos said. “Ryan [Oliver] should be that guy because he’s done it before, Willem and Jimmy Paige are young, but I’m like just go play, get a rebound, go play defense, block a shot.”

The bright spot in the Saints interior, despite the absences of Silas and Bisping, has been Javion Ogunyemi. The 6’8″ sophomore blocked a career-high five shots in the Saints win over Niagara and is averaging 1.3 bpg. With that defensive production, the offense has started to come for Ogunyemi who is averaging 8.2 ppg.

“He’s a great leader on the floor, because he always knows what’s going on,” Patsos said. “He’s not that vocal of a guy, but I think the more emotional he gets, the better he’ll be.”

Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]

One thought on “Siena Seeking Answers Defensively

  1. With very limited exceptions, Siena as slow and not very athletic players. That is the problem, and the injuries and player forced to leave didn’t help.


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