Saints coach ready to face fa­mil­iar foe

Robert Mor­ris has much ex­pe­ri­ence vs. Chris­tian’s “May­hem” style of play

Albany Times Union - - SPORTS - By Mark Sin­ge­lais

Siena men’s bas­ket­ball coach Jamion Chris­tian will re­new his per­sonal ri­valry with Robert Mor­ris on Satur­day af­ter­noon.

He’ll just be lead­ing a dif­fer­ent team when the Saints (3-6) face the Colo­nials (4-5) in Moon Town­ship, Pa., just out­side of Pitts­burgh.

Chris­tian met Robert Mor­ris ev­ery year when he was the head coach at Mount St. Mary’s the past six seasons. He was 9-6 against the Colo­nials, in­clud­ing a vic­tory at Robert Mor­ris in the 2014 North­east Con­fer­ence ti­tle game, the first of Chris­tian’s two NEC cham­pi­onships.

His fi­nal game with Mount

St. Mary’s was ahome­lossto Robert Mor­ris in the NEC quar­ter­fi­nals last sea­son. Siena hired Chris­tian in May to re­place Jimmy Pat­sos.

“We had some great bat­tles when I was at Mount St. Mary’s with Robert Mor­ris,” Chris­tian said. “When I got into the league, they were the pre­mier team in the league go­ing to the NCAA Tour­na­ment ev­ery year. The Mount and Robert Mor­ris be­came a big-time ri­valry in the league. And so it’ll be good to go back there and play against a fa­mil­iar op­po­nent.”

Only in a dif­fer­ent gym. Robert Mor­ris has torn down Se­wall Cen­ter to make room for its new arena, UMPC Events Cen­ter, which is still un­der con­struc­tion. The team’s tem­po­rary home is North Ath­letic Com­plex on cam­pus, which has a seat­ing ca­pac­ity of 1,000. “Their new venue looks fan­tas­tic from the draw­ings I’ve seen and I’m dis­ap­pointed we won’t be play­ing there,” Chris­tian said.

This is a re­turn game from Siena’s 76-74 win over Robert Mor­ris at Times Union Cen­ter last sea­son.

That was one of the Saints’ few high points on their way to an 8-24 sea­son. Chris­tian is still early in his re­build­ing ef­forts, and Siena was badly ex­posed in an 82-40 drub­bing at St. Bon­aven­ture on Wed­nes­day night.

It was Siena’s most lop­sided loss in al­most 11 years since a 102-58 de­feat to Mem­phis on Jan. 3, 2008.

Chris­tian said his play­ers should be able to bounce back, even fol­low­ing their sec­ond long bus trip this week.

“That’s all you can ask for, to be early in the year with an op­por­tu­nity to learn and re­spond,” Chris­tian said. “That’s a great op­por­tu­nity for us to see where we are and see how much bet­ter we can get. I don’t think we have to pick them up. We’ve got com­peti­tors in there and we got beat pretty good, so they’re go­ing to be ready to compete on Satur­day.”

“Just work on our flaws,” red­shirt fresh­man guard Jimmy Ratliff added. “Not stress on it much, but learn from it and then take it over to Robert Mor­ris.”

The Saints weren’t able to use their “May­hem” pres­sure against St. Bon­aven­ture much, mainly be­cause Siena couldn’t make any shots. Their 40 points tied the fewest in the pro­gram’s Di­vi­sion I his­tory.

And while Chris­tian has em­braced the play­ers he in­her­ited, the fact re­mains he still doesn’t have all his own re­cruits to play his style.

“I don’t think we have our ath­leti­cism at the level I want it at just yet, so we have to be a lit­tle more se­lec­tive with (press­ing), but they’ve em­braced it,” he said.

Un­clear is whether Siena will have se­nior for­ward Evan Fisher back for the game. He missed the St. Bon­aven­ture game with a lower right leg in­jury. Chris­tian and a Siena bas­ket­ball spokesper­son didn’t re­spond to texts ask­ing if Fisher was mak­ing the trip.

Robert Mor­ris is com­ing off a 68-62 loss at Cani­sius on Wed­nes­day. The Colo­nials are led in scor­ing by 6-2 se­nior guard Josh Wil­liams, who av­er­ages 16.9 points per game and shoots 47 per­cent from 3-point range.

Robert Mor­ris is sec­ond in the NEC in field goal per­cent­age de­fense (.435) and leads the league by forc­ing 16.4 turnovers per game. On the other hand, the Colo­nials are sec­ond to last in re­bound­ing mar­gin at mi­nus 5.8 per con­test.

While Chris­tian knows Robert Mor­ris’ per­son­nel well, he said it cuts both ways against the Colo­nials and head coach An­drew Toole.

“They know our of­fense well, so we’re prob­a­bly go­ing to see some things against them that maybe our guys haven’t seen yet,” Chris­tian said. “We’ve just got to do a great job of be­ing ready for them and just be ready to play tough de­fen­sively.”

chris­tian

Lee S. Weiss­man / news­day

the sta­tus of Siena’s evan fisher (32) is uncer­tain af­ter miss­ing the last game with a leg in­jury. fisher leads the team in re­bound­ing (5.9) and is sec­ond in scor­ing (14.0).

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