ALBANY Siena’s grind-it-out offense ground to a halt with eight minutes left against St. Bonaventure on Tuesday.
The Saints reached a low point for the season, scoring just 43 points in their fifth straight loss to fall to 2-7.
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference opener represents a fresh start each year, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for Siena, which is desperate to find some offense and win a game.
The Saints will face the 5-4 Broncs at 7 tonight at the Times Union Center hoping that a few encouraging signs mean that the offense, ranked eighth (57.2 points per game) of 10 teams in the MAAC, is on the verge of turning the corner.
“I hope we’re due for one, it’s been nine games yet,” sophomore Rob Poole said. “We can stop teams, it’s just scoring, honestly. Averaging 53  points a game, that’s horrible.”
Poole tied a career high with 19 points against UAlbany on Saturday, followed by a career-high 16 points from redshirt sophomore Trenity Burdine in the 58-43 loss at St. Bonaventure.
For stretches against the Bonnies, head coach Mitch Buonaguro went with a small lineup by using Burdine at the power forward position, which has been a barren wasteland for scoring from Imoh Silas and Davis Martens.
The Saints were also happy to see sophomore Rakeem Brookins back at practice at the TU Center on Thursday, his first practice since re-injuring his back in a late-game collision against Maine on Nov. 25.
He was scheduled to return to the lineup no sooner than the Dec. 29 game against LaSalle, but he said his recovery is ahead of schedule and he might be able to play a little sooner than that.
“It’s a good sign . . . it’s a good sign for all of us,” Brookins said with a chuckle. “The doctors told me if you feel good, see what happens.
“I’m not going to adjust my game, because I have to play how I play. I try not to worry about it as much. It can change my ways, instead of driving as much, just shooting all the time. I don’t want to babysit it, but I do have to be careful.”
In the meantime, Buonaguro said that he’ll continue to explore the potential of playing Burdine at the four.
“I think he’s developed into a guy who can play the four,” Buonaguro said. “It’s a small team, but it could help our offense. The turnovers have been there all year. Secondly, we’re not getting a lot of scoring from the four spot, so teams are ganging up on O.D. [Anosike]. You have to create some points from that spot somehow.”
“I feel like I can come out and help the team more,” Burdine said. “We need to step up, because it can’t just be O.D. and Evan [Hymes] all the time.
“At the four, they’re probably going to have somebody bigger and slower than me, at times. It gives them problems, and I’m comfortable at either spot.”
“We’re not putting ourselves in position to score, we’re kind of just sitting out there and letting the ball go in to O.D. and not helping him out,” Poole said. “If things are going to change, we have to make more plays off the bounce ourselves and take more responsibility.
“It’s very tricky. Coach wants us to burn some time off the clock, throw it down to O.D. But when you score 43 points in a game, a lot of us want to take over the game and start scoring.”
St. John’s transfer Nurideen Lindsay leads Rider in scoring at 14.0 points per game, followed by Anthony Myles (13.2).
The Broncs promoted assistant Kevin Baggett to head coach after Tommy Dempsey left for Binghamton.
“They press on every made basket,” Buonaguro said. “They’re a little undersized. [Daniel] Stewart at the four is a good pressing player, and the new coach made a commitment to pressing.”
After tonight’s game, the Saints play at Manhattan on Sunday afternoon, followed by a two-week break before playing at Fordham on Dec. 23.
“Getting a nice win at home would be real good for us,” Anosike said. “For a young team, sometimes confidence can be fickle.”
Siena will retire Fred Shear’s No. 50 jersey during a ceremony at halftime of the LaSalle game on Saturday, Dec. 29.
He joins Marc Brown, Billy Harrell and Kenny Hasbrouck as players to have their jersey retired by the school.
Shear still holds the second-highest career scoring average (20.3 ppg) in program history and the fifth-highest career rebounding average (9.5 rpg). He was the first two-time All American in Siena history, earning Associated Press Honorable Mention recognition in 1972 and 1973.
The Waterford-Halfmoon High School graduate is the only Siena player to have averaged at least 19.5 points per game in three consecutive seasons, and was the first person to be inducted into the Siena Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility (1978). He also reached the 1,000 point mark in fewer games (52) than any player in program history.
Shear played just three varsity seasons due to the NCAA freshman rule, but still ranks 12th all-time with 1,400 career points and 15th with 658 rebounds. Shear was the captain of coach Bill Kirsch’s first team at Siena.