GAME NOTES: A pair of teams trying to reach an even .500 on the season get together in New York tonight, as the Siena Saints host the Penn State Nittany Lions in the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational.
Penn State, a member of the Big Ten Conference, was beaten up pretty bad in league play in 2013-14, sporting a mark of 6-12. However, in non-conference action the squad did quite well for itself -- well enough to be invited to take part in this tourney. The Nittany Lions had a bit of a rough time of it at home against Hampton in the first round last week, but managed to pull out a 69-65 victory in order to advance.
The Saints, representatives from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, have an identical overall record to that of PSU (16-17), but the squad came on strong down the stretch with four straight wins to close out the regular season. Unfortunately, Siena was one-and-done in the MAAC Tournament with a 71-65 loss to Canisius, before opening this tourney with a 66-55 defeat of Stony Brook.
This is just the second meeting all-time between these two programs, with the other matchup taking place in the postseason as well. Back in 2000, the squads collided in the NIT at the Bryce Jordan Center where the hosts slipped by with a 105-103 victory in the second round of the event.
The winner of this meeting will head to the semifinals where the remaining teams in the tournament are re-bracketed.
Penn State led by as many as 10 in the first half against Hampton, eight at the break, but had to hold on down the stretch after the Pirates actually took a brief two-point lead midway through the second half. D.J. Newbill led the charge for the Nittany Lions with 19 points, followed by Brandon Taylor with 14 and nine boards, while Tim Frazier and Geno Thorpe each tacked on 10 points in the close call. The hosts turned the ball over 15 times, against only 17 field goals, but made up for those miscues with a massive 42-18 edge on the glass.
While Frazier has been the face of the Nittany Lions for several years, he is now the second-leading scorer for the program with his 15.2 ppg, trailing Newbill who has produced 17.8 ppg. But as well as Newbill has played, he still has to give plenty of credit to Frazier who not only continues to draw plenty of attention from defenses, but is also first on the unit with 179 assists.
The offense was a bit shaky for the Saints in their meeting with Stony Brook, shooting only 41.1 percent from the field, 4-of-11 behind the 3-point line and leaving far too many points unrealized at the free-throw line (16-of-25) during the 11-point home win. Rob Poole scored a game-high 20 points and Brett Bisping tacked on 17, although the latter shot just 5-of-14 from the floor in the outing.
While they are currently listed as probable for the game tonight, Evan Hymes, Maurice White and Javion Ogunyemi stirred up a bit of controversy as they left the bench during an altercation with Stony Brook, resulting in their ejections, but they are expected to be on the floor when Penn State comes calling. Of the trio, Hymes is perhaps the most valuable with his 9.2 ppg, but he has converted only 38.5 percent of his field goals this season. At the top of the scoring list are Poole and Bisping with 14.8 and 10.8 ppg, respectively.
While the NCAA is not suspending the Siena trio for their actions in the first round of this tournament, there's still a chance the school itself could take action, but that doesn't seem likely since none of them were assessed a technical and the Saints will need all hands on deck for this outing anyway.
Game Date and Time