Thursday, January 28, 2010

Siena Survives Challenge With Defense

Siena is known for its fast-paced offense, but in one of its biggest challenges of the season to date the Saints remained unbeaten in conference play on the strength of its defense.

The Saints earned a physical 66-58 victory over host Saint Peter's at the Yanitelli Center in Jersey City, N.J., in Siena's latest battle with a second-place team.

The Peacocks entered the game with a 7-3 conference record, good for a share of second, and is now 7-4 in the MAAC and 12-9 overall.

Siena has now won 12 straight games this season, the program's second-longest win streak since it moved to the Division I level in 1976. Only the 1988-89 team's 14-game string is longer. And, the 12-game streak is the longest active nationally.

The Saints have won 15 consecutive conference games (including tournament games) and 35 of their last 37 games against league opponents.

Saint Peter's had a five-game winning streak entering Thursday's contest, but failed to extend that string of success when it failed to find much offensively against the winner's strong defense.

The Peacocks held a 48-46 lead midway through the second half. After that, Saint Peter's could only connect on three of its last 13 attempts over the final nine minutes.

Two of were long three-pointers by freshman guard Steven Samuels, the second of those pulling the Peacocks to within 56-54 with about 5:25 remaining.

And, after that, the hosts made just one more field goal (1-of-7) over the rest of the contest.

More defense? Siena pretty much clinched things when, coming out of a time out with 37 seconds left and holding a four-point lead, it pressed the hosts, forced the ball out of point guard Nick Leon's hands on a pass to forward Ryan Bacon, who got pressured and lost the ball out of bounds.

The Saints made their last six free throws to finish it out.

Siena is now 11-0 in the MAAC, seven victories away from the third unbeaten team by a conference team in MAAC history.

Only La Salle's teams of 1987-88 (14-0) and 1989-90 (16-0) have ever completed an unblemished MAAC schedule.

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