Saints’ running game will have to wait
Eventually, Siena wants to run the floor more to create offense.
It appears that tonight is not the night to try that, though.
The Saints will play three games in three days as part of the NUCDF Basketball Challenge at the University of San Diego’s Jenny Craig Pavilion.
They’ll regain the services of redshirt sophomores Rakeem Brookins, a speedy guard who thrives in a running game, and small forward Trenity Burdine, but not until Saturday night, when their suspensions end.
In the meantime, Siena will face Cal State Northridge at 7 tonight, and head coach Mitch Buonaguro would prefer to postpone an up-tempo approach until after this game, because the Matadors thrive in that type of approach.
“Northridge gives you a lot of fast-break opportunities, but the problem is you don’t want to get in a run-and-gun game with them, because that’s what they do really well,” he said. “To some degree, you’ve got to get them in a halfcourt.”
Perhaps if Siena had the services of Brookins and Burdine, the Saints would be better equipped to handle Cal State Northridge.
Both will sit one more game after drawing three-game suspensions for violating athletic department policies, then be available for Siena’s game against Northern Kentucky on Saturday.
Siena (1-1) will play the host Toreros on Sunday.
Brookins (back) and Burdine (foot) both missed all of last season with injuries, then had their return delayed further by the suspensions.
Buonaguro had been looking forward to putting Brookins and the equally fast Evan Hymes in the same backcourt, but will have to wait for one more game before trying that combination.
“It’s been tough, especially after sitting out last year, but I’m ready to get back out on the floor and help the guys,” Brookins said.
“We get a little bit more experience, get a little deeper with those guys back,” senior forward O.D. Anosike said. “Rahk will be one of our primary ballhandlers and take some pressure off of Evan, and Trenity gives us another athlete that can play inside and out, so I’m really looking forward to getting them back. At the same time, we’ve got to play Cal State Northridge without them.”
Three days before the season-opening loss to Vermont, Buonaguro had said that the Saints’ offense was ahead of the defense, but he reversed that opinion after watching the Saints score just 53 points against the Catamounts and 47 in regulation against Navy before pulling out a 54-49 win in overtime on Sunday.
With that in mind, tonight’s game will be a matchup of a team allowing just 51.5 points per game against a team that scored 96 in a win over Eastern Washington and beat Pepperdine, 81-75. Cal State Northridge opened the NUCDF tournament against San Diego Thursday night.
Tulsa is also playing in the NUCDF.
“Cal State Northridge is a really athletic team,” Buonaguro said. “They really put points up and get after you on the defensive end. The exact opposite of the teams we’ve played. Totally different. They play 10, 11 guys. A very young team, but very athletic. A lot of city kids from L.A. They put up 96 points [Monday] night, so they can really score.”
Siena had hoped to be a better three-point shooting team this season to alleviate the double-teams and pressure on Anosike down low, but that hasn’t materialized yet.
The Saints have made just nine of 43 threes (.209), with Hymes (3-for-16) and sophomore Rob Poole (3-for-13) responsible for most of that.
“Hopefully, the shooting will get better,” Buonaguro said. “We’ve gotten pretty good shots, we just haven’t knocked them out. Our philosophy is to go inside, so we’ll continue to do that. I just hope we shoot better. Getting the two guys back will help a lot. Rahk is a good shooter and can score, and Trenity can score.”
“The freshmen were a little hes-itant the first two games,” Brookins said. “They’re going to adapt, and we’re going to come along and have a better offense. We can pick up the pace when me and Evan are on the floor together. We can run the floor and have the type of offense that Coach B likes us to play, running up and down and getting breaks. We haven’t been running the floor like we’re supposed to.”
“Obviously, we miss Rahk,” Anosike said. “He’s a guy with tremendous talent. The freshmen have really played well in his absence, but it’s always nice to get a player like Rahk back on the team.
“We’ll be a lot quicker, we’ll be able to handle the ball a lot better, we’ll be able to push the ball up the floor and hopefully be able to get some easy baskets. We’ll just be a more dynamic team. We’ll be able to score better.”