Siena uses clutch shooting to sneak past Iona in overtime

Saints get revenge on the Gaels, who beat them in the MAAC Championship game last season

ALBANY — In regulation, Siena had to be pesky to stay in the game. When it went to overtime, they were finally able to grab a lead and pull away as they beat Iona on Monday night at the Times Union Center, using the extra session to score 16 points and in the process, grab an 82-78 victory.

Iona used their well-known fast-paced style of play in the first half, but Siena kept up with them the entire way, and found themselves trailing by only three at intermission.

In the second half, however, the Saints were down by six with 10 minutes remaining in the game, which happened to be Iona’s largest lead of the night. Siena chipped away slowly but surely throughout the second half, finally leading up to a Khalil Richard score with less than four minutes remaining in regulation, giving the Saints their first lead of the second half.

Eventually, a score off the hands of freshman Jordan Horn tied the game up with 25 seconds left in regulation, and a miss by Iona’s Rickey McGill in the final seconds sent the game into overtime, Siena’s fourth of that nature this season.

The beginning of overtime was really when Siena turned it on. Evan Fisher hit two threes in the first 65 seconds of overtime to give the Saints a 72-68 lead, which was a momentum shifter and a huge weight lifted off their shoulders at the start of the extra session.

“It gave us huge confidence. Prince (Oduro) kicked it out, I was wide open, and it fell. That clearly gave me a lot of confidence for my second one,” Fisher said.

Siena coach Jimmy Patsos added of the shots at the beginning of overtime, “Evan, just a tremendous effort. That’s the Evan Fisher we recruited.”

Fisher finished the night with 21 points on an 8-10 shooting effort, to go along with nine rebounds.

After that, it was Richard once again coming up big, as he hit two shots that gave Siena a six-point lead, 78-72, as overtime wound down, and giving Siena leeway at the end of the game to hold on, ending Iona’s eight-game winning streak in Albany against the Saints. Richard finished with a team and career-high 22 points.

“Khalil hit some big-time buckets for us when we were in those scoring droughts,” Patsos said of Richard.

Siena hit five of the six shots that they took during overtime.

“Siena played really well. They got the shots they wanted, and they made them,” Iona head coach Tim Cleuss said.

In the first half especially, Siena had to keep pace with one of the quickest teams in the nation and one that shoots a lot of three-pointers. However, the young Saints did well with it, holding them to just 36 first-half points and 3-8 from behind the arc. They shot 6-19 overall from three.

“I think just the whole key, keeping pace with them in the first half was just sprinting back on defense. We lost them a few times for threes in transition, but for the most part we started off strong,” Jordan Horn said.

As part of this, they were able to hold Schadrac Casimir, who came into the night averaging 9.1 points per game, to just four points on 1-8 shooting, frustrating him all night long.

“That was huge, because he was my assignment last game, and he had 17 points, kind of killed us down the stretch. I didn’t want that to happen again today,” Horn added.

Iona falls to 10-5 in the conference and 16-11 overall. They will play again on Friday at home as they face Niagara. That game will begin at 7 p.m.

Siena improves to 4-10 in conference play and 8-19 overall. They return to action on Thursday, facing Rider on the road before returning home on Sunday to face Monmouth. Those games will begin at 7 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively.

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