Posted at: 03/03/2014 12:11 AM
Updated at: 03/03/2014 3:25 PM
By: Chris Onorato
To the delight of 8,148 fans, walk-on senior Steven Cruz started and finished his last regular-season game at Times Union Center. The Saints posted a comfortable 70-54 victory over Monmouth Sunday afternoon in Albany, closing the year on a four-game win streak that led to a bye into the MAAC Quarterfinals.
The largest crowd since Siena’s season-opener with crosstown rival UAlbany was on hand to show appreciation for a team that was picked 10th in the MAAC Preseason Poll and finished fifth by two full games.
“We have great fans,” Jimmy Patsos said. “A meaningless game in terms of standings, and to have 8,100 people here is just tremendous. We’re very grateful.”
Brett Bisping had 17 points and seven rebounds, Evan Hymes scored 15 points in 17 minutes, steady Lavon Long chipped in 10, and Imoh Silas finished with seven points, 11 rebounds and six blocks – the most by a Saint since Ryan Rossiter had eight in a 93-69 win over Manhattan on February 12, 2009.
“I thought Imoh Silas really saved us,” Patsos said.
Junior Rob Poole became the 40th Siena player to reach 1,000 points and just the third to do it in three years on a layup that pushed the lead to 50-29 with 13:56 to play.
Siena led from start-to-finish, and by as many as 24, a welcome reprieve from the wild last three weeks that saw eight of nine games decided in the final minute.
The Saints shot 22-for-25 from the free throw line after going 19-21 in their win at Quinnipiac Thursday night, and turned the ball over just 11 times – a far cry from the 23 they had in a 63-59 loss at Monmouth on January 2.
Monmouth got a game-high 18 points from junior Andrew Nicholas and 14 from classmate Deon Jones.
Siena entered the game knowing it would be the No. 5 seed in the MAAC Tournament and open play in the Quarterfinals on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Springfield’s MassMutual Center.
Cruz, Siena’s only senior, started for the first time in his career and scored his first point of the season on a free throw with 2:31 left. He also dished out an assist on the game’s first basket and grabbed his second first half rebound of the week before Mraquis Wright entered for him nearly three minutes into the game.
“You gotta be in a good mood when you see Steve Cruz,” Patsos said.