The Martin Luther King day of observance on Monday was a good time to be a college basketball fan in New York's Capital Region.
Those so inclined had an opportunity for a day/night doubleheader of basketball with each game featuring the unquestioned, undisputed "heavyweight champion" of the conference.
On the women's side, it was Marist playing at Siena in an afternoon contest. The evening featured the Siena men hosting Manhattan.
Domination? Where to begin with the Marist women?
They've won their last 10 games overall this season and are well on their way to an unprecedented seventh straight regular-season MAAC title. The Red Foxes have also won the last four MAAC tournaments, earning trips to the NCAA post-season tournament..
Since the start of the 2004-05 season, Marist is 84-5 against conference foes, the latest victory a 71-58 decision over Siena before a nice crowd of 921 at Siena's on-campus Alumni Recreation Center.
Siena is currently 3-3 in league play, and showing signs it will finish in the upper half of the final regular-season standings (after being picked to finish 8th, according to the coaches' preseason poll).
Siena was within six on Monday with 9:50 left before the Red Foxes broke away with a 10-3 run to put things away.
Some observations about Marist:
- Rachele Fitz, the team's 6-foot-0 forward, came into the contest averaging 19.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and shooting .582 percent from the floor. She is all but certain to be the conference's Player of the Year for an unprecedented third straight season. But, Siena held her in relative check (11 points, 9 rebounds), and Marist still won with relative ease.
- Erica Allenspach, a 5-8 junior guard, played like she'll contend for conference Player of the Year honors when Fitz is gone next season. She had a career-high 26 points, getting 12 of those on 4-of-7 work from 3-point territory. On the season she currently averages 14.6 points per game.
- Marist might also have another future Player of the Year candidate on its roster, if Monday's game was any indication. Kate Oliver, a 6-foot-4 center who is a native of Sydney, Australia, had 15 points (7-of-8 shooting), six rebounds, three assists and two blocks in just 24 minutes. Siena had no answer for her. Just one game, and Oliver came into it averaging just 4.2 points and 2.5 rebounds, but if she can play like that consistently she has the type talent that rarely is on display by a 6-foot-4 player at this level.
- Marist entered the contest fourth nationally in assist-turnover ratio (1.19), and had 20 assists against just 10 turnovers on Monday. Only Connecticut, Oakland and Ohio State have better assist-turnover ratios.
-Marist entered the game as the top free-throw shooting team nationally with its .806 percentage. It made 15-of-18 (.833) on Monday.
On Monday evening, the Siena men remained dominant with an 83-68 decision over Manhattan, despite playing without its Player of the Year candidate Edwin Ubiles (back woes).
Siena got big efforts from senior forward Alex Franklin (23 points on 9-of-12 shooting in 24 minutes) and junior center Ryan Rossiter (19 points, 14 rebounds). Sophomore guard Kyle Downey made up for Ubiles' absence with a career-high 16 points (6-of-9 shooting) in 31 minutes.
Manhattan's Rico Pickett is the real deal on the offensive end (26 points, 10-of-19 shooting), if one night's viewing is any indication.
But, it seemed clear that Jaspers' coach Barry Rohrssen would like a little more from the junior standout.
"He's a good player, but we've got to spread the ball around and have more balance," said the Manhattan coach. "It's always harder to guard five guys than it is to guard one guy."
- The victory was Siena's 31st straight on its Times Union Center home court in Albany, N.Y., the second-longest active streak nationally. Only Kansas (52) has a longer streak.
- Its nine-game winning streak overall is the program's longest since the 1999-00 season when it also had a nine-game streak. Prior to that, the longest streak was 14 consecutive wins during the 1988-89 season. The 1988-89 team was the program's first to get into the NCAA's. There, it won a first-round game over Stanford (ranked 13th nationally at the time). Your humble blogger contends that the 1988-89 Siena team remains the best ever to play at the school.
- Siena has won the last two regular-season title, and appears well on its way to a third straight with its 8-0 conference record. Fairfield, at 6-2, is its closest pursuer.
- Saints' coach Fran McCaffery won his 100th career game with Siena (100-48). Only Mike Deane, who won his 100th game when he had only 44 losses, has gotten to the century mark for victories faster as a Saints' coach.