Player of the Week: F Alex Franklin (Siena)
The senior forward led the Saints to two wins last week with averages of 24.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game.
Rookie of the Week: G Rashard McGill (Iona)
Yet another young Gael stepped up for head coach Kevin Willard last week, with McGill averaging 9.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in wins over Manhattan and Fairfield. In the win over rival Manhattan, McGill led the way with 13 points (career-high) and seven rebounds.
Game of the Night: Siena (10-0 MAAC, 17-4 Overall) at Saint Peter's (7-3, 12-8) (7 PM)
With senior swingman Edwin Ubiles (shoulder/back) listed as doubtful for tonight's game at the Yanitelli Events Center, there is the distinct possibility that the nation's longest win streak (eleven straight) comes to an end tonight. This is just one more injury for the banged-up Saints to navigate, one more hurdle for Fran McCaffery's team to clear on their way to another conference crown. In Ronald Moore they have the MAAC's best point guard (and Player of the Year favorite), and the frontcourt tandem of Alex Franklin and Ryan Rossiter have been constants all season long. If Ubiles were unable to go that would simply slide more of the scoring load over to Clarence Jackson, who shot a combined 2-for-19 in wins over Loyola and Manhattan.
And against a backcourt as good as the tandem of Wesley Jenkins and Nick Leon Siena can ill-afford a night along those lines from the junior who hails from the Garden State. All three of Jackson's field goals in Siena's 64-53 win over the Peacocks on New Year's Eve came from behind the arc but that came on a day in which Ubiles paced the Saints with 21 points and Jenkins didn't even play for SPC. He'll be there tonight, and he could be due for another big performance after going through a three-game stretch in which he shot just 9-for-28 from the field. But John Dunne's Peacocks still won all three games due to their defense and the ability of others to score points.
The last time Saint Peter's has played this well (five straight wins, sweep of the Western New York trip) they made it all the way to the MAAC Tournament final where they fell to Iona. Now that Coach Dunne has this program headed in the right direction Saint Peter's is a serious threat to earn the two-seed in March's conference tournament. How can they win? Holding their own on the boards (these are the top two teams in the MAAC in rebounding margin), playing solid defense (SPC leads the conference in field goal percentage defense) and not turning the ball over (Siena leads the conference in turnover margin; Saint Peter's is 7th). Keep an eye on this one, as a win would serve as a catalyst down the stretch for both teams.
7p Fairfield (7-3, 14-6) at Loyola (3-7, 10-10)
The Greyhounds put a scare into Siena last week before falling in Albany, which should be a sign that Jimmy Patsos' team shouldn't be underestimated despite being shorthanded. Jamal Barney's no longer with the team and leading scorer Brett Harvey had missed five of his last six games before playing 24 minutes in Loyola's 80-64 win over Marist. His return is crucial tonight when considering the play of Fairfield freshman guard Derek Needham, who's the runaway favorite for MAAC Rookie of the Year honors. A banged-up Harvey played just sixteen minutes in the first meeting, won by the Stags in Bridgeport 65-60. Fairfield made 52.1% of their shots in the win and Anthony Johnson led the way with 14 points and eight rebounds.
7p Manhattan (2-8, 7-13) at Rider (4-6, 11-11)
The Broncs picked up an important victory on Sunday in winning at Niagara, snapping their three-game skid in the process. But their defense, among the worst in the MAAC, will be tested by Manhattan's perimeter trio of Darryl Crawford, Antoine Pearson and Rico Pickett, all of whom can create for themselves as well as others. The last meeting between these two went right down to the wire, with Rider winning 65-64 back on January 4th thanks to a Mike Ringgold layup with seven seconds remaining. That win also ranked among Rider's best in regards to defense as they held the Jaspers to 35.8% shooting from the field. If they can duplicate that showing Ryan Thompson and company should have enough offense to get the job done.
7:30p Marist (1-9, 1-19) at Iona (7-3, 15-6)
The Gaels look to extend their six-game win streak in a game that many expect them to win with ease. But in a matchup of young teams that is also their first meeting of the year this could be a dangerous game for Kevin Willard's squad if they focus solely on the Red Foxes' struggles. Marist ranks third in the MAAC in three point percentage, but that's an area that Kyle Smyth and company lead the conference in. Also, Iona ranks third in field goal percentage defense and first in three-point percentage defense. With nine freshmen and sophomores who are growing more confident by the game (and better as a team), Iona is a squad that could continue on their current roll going into the final month of the regular season.
7p (Friday; ESPNU) Niagara (4-6, 11-11) at Canisius (5-5, 10-11)
The Golden Griffins failed to build on the momentum gained in their impressive win over Rider, losing to Saint Peter's on Sunday afternoon. But the Purple Eagles were the bigger disappointment of the two, dropping both home games last weekend (Saint Peter's and Rider). Both now find themselves in the fight to avoid playing on Friday night in the MAAC Tournament with their personal rivalry serving as the headline. They'll play each other again next Friday, and with both teams possessing a number of solid scoring options this will be an entertaining affair.
In games against teams below them in the MAAC standings Tom Parrotta's team is 4-1 this season, which could bode well for the Griffs and they also have an outstanding point guard in Frank Turner. As for Joe Mihalich's squad they've been without leading scorer Tyrone Lewis the last two games due to injury and if he can't go they'll need Demetrius Williamson to continue his solid play of late (20 ppg last week). The key for Niagara: rebounding. They've been undersized for years but they still found a way to rebound the basketball. Outside of Bilal Benn that's not happening this year. All hands will need to be on deck in going up against Greg Logins and Tomas Vasquez-Simmons if the Purple Eagles are to win.