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Northern Kentucky (0-2) vs. Siena (1-2)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 17, 10:30 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Jenny Craig Pavilion (5,100) -- San Diego, California. Television: None. Home Record: NKU 0-0, Siena 0-1. Away Record: NKU 0-2, Siena 1-0. Neutral Record: NKU 0-0, Siena 0-1. Conference Record: NKU 0-0, Siena 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.

GAME NOTES: The third day of the NUCDF Challenge at Jenny Craig Pavilion will come to a close when the Northern Kentucky Norse match up with the Siena Saints Saturday night.

As might be expected for a team making its debut at the Division I level, Northern Kentucky has yet to earn a win in its first two contests. The Norse fought tough on the road against San Diego but ultimately fell in the season opener (65-61). In the first game of this event against Tulsa, the Norse were much less competitive losing in a 76-56 rout. Northern Kentucky will play Cal State Northridge on the final day of the event tomorrow.

Siena has not been able to relax in any game this season. The Saints are just 1-2 but all three games have been decided by five points or less. First Siena lost a one-point decision to Vermont at home (54-53) and followed that up with a 54-49 win in overtime against Navy. In its opening game of the challenge against Cal State Northridge the Saints were outlasted 68-64 by the Matadors. Siena plays host San Diego on Sunday to wrap up the event.

Siena and Northern Kentucky have never matched up before.

In the first half it looked like Northern KEntucky might be able to keep up with Tulsa as the Norse went into the break leading 36-34. In those first 20 minutes the Norse connected on 11-of-27 field goal attempts. In the second half the Norse crumbled to a 6-of-23 effort from the floor. Only Nate Snodgrass (12 points) finished the game in double figures, scoring all of his points off the bench.

It has and will continue to take some adjusting for Northern Kentucky to be successful at the Division I level. Thus far, Northern Kentucky has struggled to score (58.5 ppg) and is being wiped out on the boards by bringing in 25.0 per game, which is better than only three teams in the early season. Eshaunte Jones (10.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg) is both the lead scorer while tied for the team-lead in rebounding. However the 6-foot-4 swingman has needed a lot of shots to get to that level connecting on 5-of-17 field goal attempts. Forward Jalen Billups 8.5 ppg) has been a much more efficient scorer (.727 FG percentage) but really needs to pick up the pace on the boards (2.5 rpg) considering he is one of a limited number of frontcourt options. Also in the mix for the Norse are Ernest Watson (8.5 ppg) and Chad Jackson (7.5 ppg, 3.0 apg).

The Saints led 58-57 with a little more than three minutes remaining against the Matadors but could not finish down the stretch in the loss. Overall in the game Siena shot at a 43.1 percent clip including a 9-of-19 effort from 3-point range but was outscored by a massive 26-8 margin on points off turnovers. Double-double machine O.D. Anosike continued to keep plugging away with a 19- point, 12-rebound showing.

Anosike is by far the most important player on the court for the Saints. The senior forward is easily averaging a double-double on the season (!5.3 ppg, 13.7 rpg) and is making the most of his offensive opportunities by netting 63.0 percent of his shot attempts. Sophomore guard Rob Poole (14.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg) has scored and rebound well fro the wings and has knocked down a team- high eight 3-pointers. Evan Hymes (12.7 ppg, 3.3 apg) has been the primarily ball handler and a solid scorer but really needs to do a better job holding onto the ball. He has 17 turnovers already. Head coach Mitch Buonaguro has relied heavily on the trio of Anosike, Poole and Hymes who are each playing more than 35 minutes per game. Imoh Silas (3.3 pg) has been the most utilized reserve averaging a little more than 20 minutes per game.

Fatigue is an issue that Siena will continue to deal with if Buonaguro keeps running his starters for such extended periods of time. However with Anosike anchoring the inside the Saints will manage to stay in most games and will do more than that against Northern Kentucky.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Siena 71, Northern Kentucky 60

11/17 10:36:46 ET

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