For the second straight year, top-seeded Monmouth was ousted from the MAAC tournament short of its championship goal. This time, it was in the semifinals against 4 seed Siena. The Saints upset Monmouth 89-85 on their home floor in Albany, the tournament’s host venue.
The second half heroics of Nico Clareth carried Siena to the upset, despite his status being unclear prior to the game due to injury. Clareth came off the bench in the second half to score all 27 of his points, hitting 7 of 9 three point attempts. Siena was down 17 with 17:49 to play before Clareth completely took over. The Saints shot 63 percent from the floor en route to outscoring the Hawks 64-46 in the second half.
Siena took the lead for the first time in the second half on an Ahsante Shivers layup with 7:34 remaining. A layup from Austin Tilghman with 4:48 to play gave Monmouth a 75-74 lead, which marked the last time the Hawks would have the advantage. Two Justin Robinson free throws with 1:13 left brought the Hawks within one, but Clareth (who else?) nailed a jumper to push the lead back to three. Robinson, who finished with a team-high 22 points, hit two layups in the final 20 seconds to keep Monmouth within a possession, but Javion Ogunyemi and Clareth combined to go 6-6 from the free throw line in the final 23 seconds to seal the upset.
Up Next: Siena heads to the MAAC title game Monday night, where it’ll face the winner of No. 2 St. Peter’s and No. 3 Iona. This is the second trip to the MAAC title game for head coach Jimmy Patsos and his first with Siena — he led Loyola MD, now in the Patriot League, to the MAAC title in 2012. As for Monmouth, King Rice’s team will head to the NIT again, and I’m sure a few words will be written about the inherent disadvantage of playing a tournament game on your opponent’s home floor despite being the top seed in the field.