Updated: 01/30/2014 11:54 PM
Created: 01/30/2014 11:52 PM WNYT.com
By: Siena Athletics & WNYT Sports
Evan Hymes hit the go-ahead three-pointer off a beautiful feed from Rob Poole with 38.4 seconds left, marking the 16th and final lead change in Siena’s dramatic 66-62 win over Niagara Thursday night in Albany.
“I’m happy we won,” Siena coach Jimmy Patsos said. “In the MAAC, you’re happy when you get a win. I don’t care about how we played, I don’t care if the start was late. Coming off a road win, most teams would have lost that game.”
After Hymes big shot put Siena up 63-61, Lavon Long fouled Wesley Myers with 12 seconds left. Myers missed the first free throw and made the second, drawing Niagara within one. Long then threw a baseball pass for Marquis Wright on the inbounds, and Wright streaked to the basket, drawing contact as his left-handed layup kissed off the glass and through the net. He clinched the game with the ensuing free throw, accounting for the final margin.
“I think Marquis Wright continues to grow as a leader,” Patsos said.
The wild finish capped off a back-and-forth game that saw both teams leave it on the floor. Siena struggled much of the night to find a rhythm, and Patsos played 11 players at least five minutes, searching for a spark. The answer came from an unlikely source.
After Niagara held Siena scoreless for exactly six minutes early in the second half, Patsos put seldom used reserve Rich Audu in the game. The Purple Eagles led 41-35 before Hymes hit a three-pointer to break the ice, and then Audu followed with a huge three from the right wing that knotted the game at 41-41 with 10:48 left. No team led by more than three points until Wright’s free throw completed his three-point play with 10 seconds left.
“We don’t win that game without Rich Audu,” Patsos said. “I just thought we were flat. You know who worked the hardest in practice yesterday? Rich Audu. I’ve been on him this year about things he doesn’t do. I said: ‘Really, you don’t think I’ll play him, I said here we go.’”
Niagara was a much more cohesive team than the one Siena defeated 84-71 in Lewiston December 6. The Purple Eagles had five days off after their home win over Marist Friday night, and the extra preparation paid off. Even though Siena held the nation’s leading scorer Antoine Mason to just 18 points for the second time this season, Marcus Ware added 18 and Rayvon Harris had 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench before fouling out late.
Siena was out-rebounded for the second straight game after out-rebounding its opponent in 15 of 16 contests, but the Saints made 9-of-11 free throws in the final four minutes.
Rob Poole led the Saints with 15 points and played 39 minutes. Hymes and Wright each had 12 points.
The Saints put their season-long three game win streak on the line Saturday night against MAAC newcomer Quinnipiac at 7 p.m.