LOUDONVILLE >> Lavon Long doesn’t give any less than 100 percent and he doesn’t plan on doing so any time soon.
On a team full of freshmen and new faces, Long, a freshman, has been steady so far, not scoring less than 11 points or grabbing less than five rebounds in any of the four games in his brief college career.
“I think it’s because I try to give 100 percent every game,” he said, after Thursday’s practice. “With hard work, easy plays happen. You don’t always have to be a playmaker. If you work hard, it will come to you and I try to let the game come to me.”
So far, Long is averaging 12.3 points per game, second best on the squad, and a team-high 6.3 rebounds per game. Just call Long, Mr. Consistency.
“Lavon’s been great,” said coach Jimmy Patsos, following the 72-70 victory over St. Bonaventure, on Tuesday. “Lavon’s been our best player this year in terms of consistency.”
Patsos hopes Long and the rest of his club are solid again tonight, as the Saints look to start a winning streak when they take on Cornell this evening in Ithaca. Tip-off is 7 p.m. for the non-conference game.
The Saints (1-3) are coming off their first victory, something that has Patsos worried about how his team will respond.
“I’m very nervous because in today’s society people have wins and then (the players) let down,” he said. “It’s happened in the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA, college football and college basketball.”
The Saints will be without Troy High grad Javion Ogunyemi and sophomore Rich Audu, who are both dealing with ankle injuries. Ogunyemi went down early in the St. Bonaventure victory and other players stepped up, something they’ll have to do once again tonight.
“The bigs are definitely going to have to work harder and play more minutes,” Long said. “But I think we’re ready for it.”
Patsos hopes to have Audu, who hasn’t played this season, return for the Old Spice Classic over Thanksgiving weekend, while Ogunyemi’s status for the three games in Orlando, Fla., is “shaky.”
Patsos is really hoping to have Ogunyemi return for the first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game, at Niagara, on Dec. 6.
The Big Red (0-5) haven’t won yet this season, but they have played No. 9 Syracuse and No. 3 Louisville.
“Cornell has played very well at times this year,” said Patsos.
The Big Red didn’t play well in their most recent game, a 81-58 road loss to Colgate on Wednesday. Cornell is led by sophomore guard Nolan Cressler, who averaged 9.3 points per game last season, and is out to a quick start this year of 17.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest. Freshman guard Robert Hatter is chipping in 10.2 points per game, but didn’t score in the team’s most recent game.
Like Siena, Cornell made three straight NCAA trips from 2008-10, under former coach Steve Donohue. In 2010, the Big Red upset Temple and Wisconsin before losing to Kentucky in the Sweet 16.
“Cornell’s had a lot of success,” Patsos said. “They know how to win and they’re going to shoot a lot of 3s. That’s dangerous.”
Siena has been playing better and finally got over the hump on Tuesday, something Patsos hopes the team can build on.
“You have a big win, can you handle it?,” he said. “Next thing you know, you lose. It’s kind of the way it goes right now in sports.”
The Saints didn’t practice particularly well on Thursday, but Patsos is still pushing the club hard, knowing that one win doesn’t do much unless you continue getting better.
“He (Patsos) doesn’t want that hard work to go away just because we won,” Long said. “He wants us to play even harder because with that win, we have to keep showing improvement.”
In addition to giving it his all, Long also can do a lot of different things. He averaged 15.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.6 blocks, 3.0 assists and 2.5 steals, as a senior at Oakland Mills, which earned him fourth team all-met from the Washington Post.
Long’s consistency just comes out of the habit of playing hard and not holding anything back.
“I don’t want to lose and know I didn’t play my hardest because that’s a terrible feeling,” he said.
That first victory gave all of the Siena players a feeling of success and they hope to keep things moving in the right direction tonight.
“All that hard work really paid off,” Long said. “I’m hoping with this additional work, we can get another win.”
Siena may be the favorite for this first time this season. That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy.
“It’s a Friday night home game, in Ithaca,” Patsos said. “It’s going to be a tough game.”