Siena defeats Bucknell in thriller

In a season where the team has struggled to close out games, Siena found a barnburner finally go their way with a 71-68 win over Bucknell on Saturday at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

Siena had a 62-52 lead in the final six minutes, but Bucknell did not see the game as over, going on a 12-1 run in less than three minutes to take a 64-63 lead, and the game was eventually evened at 66. It stayed that way until a minute to play when Nico Clareth was fouled on a three, a huge blow for the Bison of Bucknell. Clareth would nail all three of his free throws to make it a 69-66 game. They pulled out to a four point lead in the final 10 seconds, until Bucknell’s Zach Thomas hit a shot that was originally a three, but was changed to a two, another huge blow for the Bison with five seconds left.

Siena held on to win it by three after Javion Ogunyemi hit a free throw, the 1,000th collegiate point for the Troy graduate, becoming the fourth player on the Saints’ active roster to reach this milestone joining Lavon Long, Brett Bisping and Marquis Wright.

“I didn’t know how close I was. I had a feeling that it would come at some point this year, and the fact to get it at home, in front of the fans made it a lot better,” Ogunyemi said.

“I’m really proud of Javion,” Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos added.

The game had been close until midway through the second half when Siena pulled out to a double-digit lead, the biggest lead being 11. It seemed early on as if Siena would not be able to hold off Bucknell, but they did just that after being 0-3 in games decided by less than five points. A big part of this was the strong late play of Nico Clareth, who had five points in the final two minutes, and the late defensive play of Lavon Long, who had a huge block in the final minute to help seal the victory.

Patsos praised Long after the game, saying, “Lavon Long doesn’t have a position,” he said. “Lavon can play them all.”

Long had 10 points on the afternoon, one of five Saints who finished in double figures. The team was led by Brett Bisping, who had 17 points. Clareth had 16 off the bench, and Ogunyemi had 12. In addition to Long’s 10, Marquis Wright had 10. Bisping also had 13 rebounds, completing a double-double.

Clareth had been unlikely to play on Saturday as of Thursday due to a lingering knee injury that he had surgery for last summer and hadn’t played since December 5, a loss to Rider.

“When adrenaline is going through your body, I can’t really explain it. You don’t really feel anything,” Clareth said.

For Bucknell, Thomas led them with 19 points, also the most of all scorers. Stephen Brown had 16, and Nana Foulland had 11.

Saturday was Siena’s first game at the Glens Falls Civic Center since March 24, 1994, the quarterfinals of the NIT, where they beat Bradley 75-62 to advance to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden, where they went on to fall to Villanova in the semis. In the Bradley game, the Saints were led by then-head coach Mike Deane and star Doremus Bennerman, who had 34 points. Deane is now an assistant coach at James Madison and Bennerman played professionally overseas, retiring in 2007.

Bucknell falls to 7-4 on the season after the loss. They will be back in action on Monday, a home game against Mount Saint Mary’s of the NEC. That game will begin at 7 PM.

Siena improves to 4-7 on the season, and are 4-0 at home. They will play again on Tuesday against Hofstra of the CAA on the road at 7 PM. Siena will be back in Albany after Christmas for their next home game, taking on Vermont on December 29. That game will also start at 7 PM.

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