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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Siena trying to avoid trap

Siena trying to avoid trap
Saints eye Dartmouth, not Memphis

By PETE IORIZZO, Staff writer
Albany Times Union
First published: Monday, December 31, 2007

LOUDONVILLE -- Several members of the Siena men's basketball program spent their Saturday night watching No. 2 Memphis beat No. 19 Arizona on ESPN2.

Those Saints saw the Tigers improve their home winning streak to 38 games, a mark Siena can test Thursday.

But make no mistake: Siena said its focus remains on no team other than Dartmouth.

The Saints hope to avoid a slip-up in what sets up as a classic "trap game" today at Times Union Center. The Big Green arrives between Siena games against big-time teams -- Saint Joseph's and Memphis.

No matter, Siena players said.

"Whoever is next, whether it's the No. 2 team in the country or not, we have to play like we want to win," Siena senior Tay Fisher said.

Dartmouth, of the Ivy League, isn't the No. 2 team in the country. In fact, ranked Big Green No. 232 out of 342 Division I teams. Siena was ranked 58th.

Here are the recent results of Siena's next two foes: In its past two games, Memphis beat No. 5 Georgetown and No. 19 Arizona; in its past two games, Dartmouth lost to Quinnipiac and Army.

Dartmouth (5-6), picked to finish at the bottom of its conference, managed 10 wins only once in the past six seasons. Its most recent NCAA Tournament appearance came in 1959.

"We just have to go out there and approach every game like it is Stanford or Saint Joe's," Fisher said. "All these teams are good. It's Division I."

Siena, which won four consecutive games before losing Friday to Saint Joseph's, learned a lesson about trap games earlier this season. Between a win over Stanford and a rivalry game against the University at Albany, Siena flopped in a road game at Cornell, another Ivy League school.

"It is absolutely necessary that you approach every game the exact same way," Siena coach Fran McCaffery said.

Siena beat Dartmouth on the road last season, winning 83-69, but saw signs of an improving Big Green program. Small forward Alex Barnett, Dartmouth's leading scorer this year with 16.5 points per game, scored 11 against Siena a year ago, when he was one of four Big Green players in double figures.

Dartmouth leads the Ivy League in several statistical categories, including 3-point field-goal percentage defense (.286), turnover margin (plus-0.78) and offensive rebounding (12.33 per game). But it's scored less than 60 points five times.

"One of the things that will be helpful in this situation is how tough a game it was last year when we played this team," McCaffery said. "Had we gone up there and won by 30 then you worry. The players at Dartmouth already have the respect of our players, so that makes my job easier."

The Saints again might play without forward Alex Franklin, their leading rebounder, who injured his back Dec. 22 and missed Friday's game. Franklin sat out practice the past two days.

But Siena will get back Kenny Hasbrouck (back, ankle) and Cory Magee (illness), both of whom left Friday's game. Both players participated in Sunday's workout at Times Union Center.

Magee said he planned to check out the Memphis game on television, though only out of curiosity. For now, he said, Dartmouth remains the focus.

"That's the game in front of us," Magee said. "Memphis is a great team, but we have to win (today). We just have to worry about Dartmouth."

Pete Iorizzo can be reached at 454-5425 or by e-mail at

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