Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Siena Breezes in Showdown with Rider

The early "showdown" game of conference play, Ride at Siena on Wednesday night at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., became a "show-off" game for the Saints.

The meeting of teams picked by coaches in their preseason poll to finish first and third in conference play this year was rarely in doubt. Siena broke away from a 23-20 lead with 9:40 left in the first half to take a 46-30 lead at the intermission.

The Saints had a 30-point advantage, 73-43, with 10:10 remaining and everything after that was extended mop-up time in Siena's 84-62 victory.

Somewhere midway though the second half, one particularly loud fan yelled "Hey Dempsey, do you still think you've got the No. 1 team in the league?"

The reference was to the lone vote Rider got in the preseason coaches' poll to win this year's conference crown. That vote was cast by Dempsey, its own coach.

And, it probably wasn't a fair question at this point, two games into league play for both teams.

"Was this a statement game? I don't believe in statement games," said Siena coach Fran McCaffery, addressing that issue. "It's a long season. You can make a statement one night and get blown out the next night."

Whatever statement was made was that for a night, anyway, Siena was far superior. in just about every aspect.

Senior forward Alex Franklin finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while junior guard Clarence Jackson also had 22 points for the Saints.

Siena also got a 13 and 8 effort from senior forward Edwin Ubiles, a 12 and 10 night fom junio center Ryan Rossiter and a 12-assist/3 tunover performance from senior guard Ronald Moore. And, Siena might have found some backcourt depth. Kyle Griffin, a transfer from La Salle, made his first appearance of the season and had five points and played intelligent, under control ball in 13 minutes.

The night's events also illuminated some issues the Broncs need to address.

Siena seemed to play with considerably more intensity. Although that issue wasn't addressed vocally afterwards, maybe it was by Dempsey through his player substitution pattern that saw two of his starters, forward Novar Gadson and guard Justin Robinson, on the bench for the first several minutes of the second half.

Rider struggled mightily on the offensive end, connecting on just 35.6 percent of its shots. In the first half, while the game was still in doubt, the Broncs failed to hit a single one of their 15 three-point attempts. Gadson and Robinson each shot 5-of-17 fon the field, and combined on 1-of-16 shooting from 3-point territory.

And, preseason Player of the Year choice Ryan Thompson, continued to struggle with inconsistent play. The 6-6 guard scored just four points on 1-of-8 shooting from the floor. It was his third sub-par offensive production in Rider's last six games. He scored just a single point in a Dec. 6 contest with Marist and had just eight in a meeting with Monmouth on Dec. 19.

"It starts with me," admitted Thompson. "I haven't had the season everyone expected me to have, or that I expected of myself. But, you turn the page and get ready for the next game."

Dempsey noted that his teams have overcome relatively slow starts in past seasons. After an 8-6 start to last season Rider finished 23-11.

"Ou teams have gotten better in the second halfs of seasons, and I expect the same for this team," said Dempsey.

"We knew coming up here was not a life or death situation. It's a December game, maybe a chance to see where we are. But, both teams are still trying to settle rotations and find some bench strength. Now, we know where we are and it's not good enough. But, come late January and February we'll be a better team."

For a night, though, Siena was far the better team.

"You always hope that you have the focus and concentration that we had tonight," added Siena's McCaffery.

But, it's only a single night.

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