Amherst, N.Y. - The Daemen College men's basketball team will open the 2019-20 season in exciting fashion with an exhibition game at Syracuse University on Saturday, October 26. The game takes place at the Carrier Dome, a venue that seats 34,616 spectators for basketball, making it undoubtedly the largest arena that a Daemen team will have ever played in. A tip-off time is still to be determined.
"The majority of our roster is from Upstate New York, and when you grow up here and follow college basketball, the one name that stands out is Syracuse. The level of consistent success that coach [Jim] Boeheim has had is something that we all strive for. For our guys to play such a historic program in an iconic building like the Carrier Dome should make for a special day," said Daemen head coach Mike MacDonald.
It will mark the seventh straight season that Daemen has opened with an exhibition game against a Division I opponent, but their first against one from the Atlantic Coast Conference, a league that many consider to be the best in the country. In recent years, Daemen teams have squared off against Canisius College, Siena College and the University at Buffalo. An 83-81 overtime win over Canisius in MacDonald's Daemen coaching debut (Nov. 11, 2014) remains the highlight of the bunch for Wildcat fans.
The Wildcats will return 10 players, including four starters, from their 2018-19 team which had the program's best season since transitioning to NCAA Division II several years ago. MacDonald's squad posted a 16-2 mark in East Coast Conference play, giving the Wildcats their second ECC regular season title. They went on to earn the program's first-ever NCAA tournament berth, finishing the year at 24-6 overall, and were ranked as high as No. 10 in the Division II Sports Information Directors of America national poll. The Wildcats have reached the 20-win plateau in six of the last eight seasons, and haven't won fewer than 19 games since the 2010-11 campaign.
The Wildcats' returners are headlined by 6-foot-9 center Andrew Sischo (Guilderland, N.Y.) who will enter his redshirt junior season. Sischo, who averaged team-highs of 20.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game last season, racked up numerous accolades, including ECC and East Region Player of the Year, as well as Second Team All-America honors from the Division II Conference Commissioner's Association. Redshirt seniors Jay Sarkis (Batavia, N.Y.) and Jeff Redband (Batavia, N.Y.) and true senior Breon Harris (Niagara Falls, N.Y.) also return. All three have been all-conference honorees in the past; Redband and Harris have been multi-time selections.
Syracuse went 20-14 last season and made their 34th NCAA tournament appearance in Boeheim's 43 seasons on the bench. The legendary coach ranks second among NCAA Division I men's coaches in all-time victories with a career record of 946-385. The Orange will be looking to reload as just one starter, senior forward Elijah Hughes, is certain to return. Hughes averaged 13.7 points per game and made a team-high 87 three-pointers last season. Underclassmen Tyus Battle (team-high 1.2 ppg) and Oshae Brissett (12.4 ppg) are both currently exploring the NBA Draft process and their return is unknown at this time.
Ticket information for the October 26 exhibition will be announced at a later time.
The exhibition is already the second high-profile event on Daemen's 2019-20 schedule. The Wildcats will open the regular season by participating in the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic with games against defending Division II national champion Northwest Missouri State University (Friday, Nov. 1) and Missouri Western State University (Saturday, Nov. 2). Participating teams and tournament pairings were announced earlier this month.
Release provided by the Daemen Sports Information Department.