Saints seek silver lining
The only thing more consistent than O.D. Anosike’s performance this season has been his steadfast optimism that the Siena Saints will get something going one of these days.
Siena reached the 20-loss mark for only the third time in program history on Thursday in a 74-52 defeat at Fairfield, but the Saints’ senior forward and captain continues to look forward to the next opportunity.
In this case, that’s tonight’s game against Loyola, which is in position to make a run at the Metro Atlanic Athletic Conference regular-season title, at 7 at the Times Union Center.
Anosike, the only senior on the roster, could have as few as five games left in his college career, but this is no time to get nostalgic.
“Anytime I step on the floor, whether I’m a freshman or a senior, I want to win the game,” he said before practice on Friday afternoon. “For me, my only focus is to win the last couple games, try and go into the MAAC tournament playing well and hopefully make a run.”
The Saints have only a small window to achieve that, and their effort will be hampered by the continued back problems for starting guard Rakeem Brookins, who is unlikely to play tonight and will be fortunate to be healthy in time for the tournament on March 8.
Siena (4-11, 6-20) lost to the Greyhounds (10-5, 18-9) last Friday, 61-53, and have averaged just 55.3 points during a four-game losing streak.
Anosike, averaging 12.8 points and 11.7 rebounds, has been a rock of consistency on and off the court for the Saints.
If he’s experienced any discouragement in the 20-loss season, it hasn’t manifested itself in any way that has hurt the team.
“It’s definitely tough. It’s not a milestone you want to reach, by any means,” he said. “Again, we’re moving forward, and we can only control what we can control. Most of the season’s over, but we can still make some noise. We just have to get hot right now. Luckily, three of our last four are at home, and
after tomorrow night, we get a nice break to get ready for the BracketBuster.”
Anosike and sophomore point guard Evan Hymes are the only Saints to have played in all 26 games.
Anosike also leads Siena in
average minutes played, at 37.8 per game, and the 5-foot-8 Hymes,
averaging 33.4 minutes, isn’t likely to get much of a breather as long as Brookins is out.
“The problem with him is he’s not a big guy, so he’s getting mugged and fouled, and that leads to wear and tear, but without Rahk, we don’t have the luxury of playing without him,” Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro said. “We need his ballhandling.”
That said, Siena is one of the worst teams in the country in assist/turnover ratio, and has had more assists than turnovers in just one game this season.
Hymes leads the team, by far, in both categories, with 92 assists and 107 turnovers.
“Our problem has been turnovers, when you sum it all up,” Buonaguro said. “It’s bad decision making, you’re not in the right spot at the right time, youth . . . we don’t know the offense well enough, and it’s got to be a commitment by these players to learn what they’re doing. And we’ve got to do a better job, as coaches, simplifying it and making sure they know what they’re doing.”
It hasn’t helped Siena’s cause that sophomore Rob Poole’s three-point shooting has dipped below 40 percent.
He was on a tear before his season was interrupted for four games by the flu, and he’s still trying to regain his shooting touch.
Fairfield, one of the best defensive teams in the conference, completely shut him down on Thursday, when he did not score until there was under four minutes to play.
“I think Rob Poole has to establish himself more, I really do,” Buonaguro said. “He’s got to get more shots. Fairfield was really into him. Now, he’s a marked guy because he’s had a good year, so he’s going into games where the focal point is to stop him.”
Siena played well at Loyola last week, but the Greyhounds wore them down with 10 minutes left, which has been a common theme in many Siena games lately.
“They’re a team that wears you out,” Anosike said. “They continue to keep coming, and they wait for you to crack. That’s what happened around the 10-minute mark. If we can weather the storm and not succumb to their pressure, I think we’ll be OK.”