PROVIDENCE, RI – A new era is underway for the Siena College men’s basketball team. The Saints whittled an 18-point second half deficit down to as little as seven with 3:25 to go in a hard fought 77-67 season-opening loss at BIG EAST power Providence.
Freshman A.J. Reeves poured in 29 points in his collegiate debut on 10-13 shooting including 7-9 from three for Providence which has won 16 of its past 17 openers. Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team selection Alpha Diallo added a double-double with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists for the Friars which improved to 54-2 in home non-conference action under head coach Ed Cooley.
Freshmen Sloan Seymour and Jalen Pickett led the way for Siena in their collegiate debuts. Seymour scored a team-high 15 points on 5-9 shooting from distance, while Pickett added seven points and nine assists for the Saints which battled down to the wire against a Providence squad which was projected to finish third according to the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Friars are receiving votes in both major national Top-25 Polls after winning 21 games an earning an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament last spring.
Providence scored 28 points over the final 7:27 of the first half to break a 22-all tie and claim a 50-34 lead at the break. The Friars shot 65.5% from the field in the opening stanza, including 10-16 (62.5%) from three-point range.
Providence pushed its advantage to as much as 18 at 66-48 with exactly 13 minutes remaining. But Siena’s defensive adjustments began to pay dividens as the Friars cooled to just a 42% shooting clip in the second half – including a pedestrian 3-9 from distance – which helped allow the Saints to creep back into the game.
Meanwhile Siena made eight second half threes which helped in part fuel a 19-8 run over the ensuing 9:35. The Saints nailed triples on three of their final four possessions during the spurt, with a Kevin Degnan three rallying Siena as close as 74-67 with 3:25 left.
But the Saints missed their final four shots and neither team scored over the final 2:41 as Providence held on to capture the first meeting between the programs in 15 years.
The teams combined to make 25 threes as Siena, which ranked 250th nationally last season averaging just 6.9 three-point makes, shot a solid 12-28 (42.9%) from distance.
Four finished in double figures and combined to score 71 of the 77 points for the Friars as Isaiah Jackson added 16 points and Nate Watson scored 10 on a perfect 5-5 shooting off the bench for Providence which improved to 84-8 all-time in home openers.
Evan Fisher joined Seymour in double figures for the Saints, adding 11 points and six rebounds. Degnan contributed nine points, as did Sammy Friday IV in just nine minutes off the bench.
Siena will next travel to face George Washington at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Mike Demos contributed to the report.