Siena vs. Radford: Siena says goodbye to BracketBusters, faces Radford
Not much has diverted Siena from its long slide downward in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference this season.
They’ll get a break from that today.
Siena will face the Radford Highlanders of the Big South Conference at noon at the Times Union Center as part of the BracketBusters in the final year that ESPN will organize late-season matchups between mid-majors and small schools looking to improve their RPI as the NCAA Tournament looms.
That’s a distant concern for Siena this year.
The Saints have lost five straight and are 4-12 in the MAAC and 6-21 overall, with just this meaningless non-conference game and two more league games left before the MAAC Tournament begins in Springfield, Mass., on March 8.
As always, Siena comes into the game with personnel issues.
Starting guard Rakeem Brookins continues to have back problems and will be fortunate to be ready for the tournament, freshman Brett Bisping did not practice on Saturday with a skin infection, and starting point guard Evan Hymes has been nursing an ankle injury.
Brookins and Bisping are considered doubtful, and Hymes is questionable.
If Hymes doesn’t play, walk-on freshman Chris Leppanen from Christian Brothers Academy likely would start and play considerable minutes.
Radford is 6-8 in the Big South, good for third place in the North Division, and 12-16 overall.
The Highlanders are coached by Mike Jones, a former assistant to Shaka Smart at Virginia Commonwealth, helping the team on its improabable run to the Final Four in 2011.
The Highlanders have made it to the NCAAs themselves just twice, in 1998 and 2009.
Siena is 2-0 all-time against Radford, winning in overtime, 67-59, in the season opener in 2000-01 during Louis Orr’s only season as Siena head coach, and by the score of 74-72 in the championship game of the 1989 Holiday Inn Naismith Challenge in Springfield, Mass.
The Saints are 4-3 all-time in the BracketBusters and have partic-ipated for eight straight years, most memorably in 2010, when Siena lost to Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse, 70-53, and in 2009, when the Saints defeated Northern Iowa at home, 81-75, to help them gain a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Siena went on to beat Ohio State in double overtime in Dayton, Ohio, in the first round.
Those days are over, for now, as the Saints trudge home to just the third 20-loss season in program history.
As part of the BracketBusters arrangement, Siena must return a game at Radford, Va., within the next two seasons.
Siena has been outscored in the second half of 10 straight games.
Forward O.D. Anosike continues to lead Siena in scoring (12.7 points per game) and is one of the top rebounders (11.5 rebounds per game) in the country.
Sophomore Trenity Burdine has been playing well since returning from a six-game suspension.
In eight games, he is averaging 10.5 ppg and 4.4 rpg, and is shooting 53 percent from the field.
Radford’s leading scorers are 6-foot-4 sophomore forward Javonte Green (15.0 ppg) and 6-0 sophomore guard R.J. Price.
Since Jan. 17, Siena forward Imoh Silas ranks second in the nation in field goal percentage, at 79 percent (22-for-28). . .
The Saints continue to shoot well from the free throw line.
As of Friday, in games played since Jan. 1, Siena ranked 26th in the country in percentage, at 75.3 percent. . .
Siena gets back to MAAC play at home on Friday for Senior Night against Marist.
Anosike is the only senior on the roster.