Saints must contain Gaels’ shooters
Senior forward O.D. Anosike shrugged off the fact that he turned 22 on Thursday.
He and his Siena teammates won’t be shrugging off 22 today.
Sean Armand wears that jersey number for the Iona Gaels, and it’s also the number of shots he took against the Saints at Madison Square Garden last season.
Nineteen of those were three-point attempts, and 10 of them went in as Armand torched Siena for 32 points in a 95-59 Iona victory.
Twenty days later, Siena remarkably held Armand to one shot and no points in 17 minutes, and not coincidentally, the Saints avenged the worst loss of the 2011-12 season by beating Iona, 65-62.
Not much has changed this season, which means Siena will need to keep an eye on Armand and the rest of Iona’s outside shooters for any chance to win at 7 tonight at the Times Union Center.
The game won’t be on TV, but will be broadcast online via ESPN3.
At 82.8 points per game, the Gaels had the sixth-highest scoring offense in the country heading into Thursday’s games, while Siena (57.9 ppg) was 326th of 347 Division I teams.
“We see this as a game that poses a lot of different problems, just because of their high-octane offense,” Anosike said. “They can really score and knock you out in a couple minutes with their threes, so, defensively, we’re really going to have to close in on their shooters.”
“They’re a lot like La Salle,” Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro said. “They’re the closest thing on the schedule to La Salle, because they go small and really create problems. They’ve got four guys who can go off the dribble and shoot threes, and they run well. You’ve got to get them in a halfcourt game.”
Siena has lost nine straight to fall to 2-11, the longest losing streak since a 10-game skid in 2003-04.
More bad news: the Saints are 0-5 at home for the first time ever, have not held a lead for three straight games, and went the entire month of December without leading in the second half of a game. They are the only team in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference without a league win.
Siena has played strong defense, but has given up an average of 78.7 points per game over the last three and is coming off its worst loss of the season, 80-52, to La Salle.
“The game [last year] was in the 60s, as opposed to being in the 90s, and we took away all Armand’s threes,” Buonaguro said. “He didn’t play a lot. We zoned a lot in that game, and they didn’t shoot that well.
“The La Salle game, the zone was very effective for about 13 minutes. Then they started hitting threes. This is the same kind of team. If you don’t locate them, they can get on a 12-0 run, 15-0 run. You’ve got to pick your poison. If they are starting to hit, we’re going to have to make an adjustment.”
And it’s not just Armand.
At 19.3 ppg, he’s actually second in MAAC scoring behind his teammate, Momo Jones (22.5), and Tre Bowman and A.J. English are also good three-point shooters.
As of four games ago, Iona also secured the services of JUCO transfer David Laury, a 6-foot-8 forward.
He’s averaged 18.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.
“Typical Iona; they get good kids,” Anosike said. “Laury is very good, he kind of plays like a point forward and has a tremendous skill set. He can put the ball on the floor, so he poses a lot of problems for us with his ability to play away from the basket. We have to keep him in front of us.”
“He’s a very unique guy,” Buonaguro said. “He’s 6-8, and he can dribble, he can play off the bounce, he can shoot, he’s good around the basket. He adds a lot. They’re a lot better now with him.”
Presumably, the Saints should be able to score on Iona, which is last in the MAAC in scoring defense, at 77.2 ppg, but, except for a few rare stretches, Siena hasn’t shown offensive proficiency all season, and has scored more than 66 points just once in 13 games.
Their consolation, for now, is that’s still very early in the MAAC schedule.
“You really can’t get caught up in the hoopla around the program and things of that nature,” Anosike said. “You just have to continue to stay the course. Things will fall our way. Iona’s a good team, but at the same time, they’re a beatable team. I think for the rest of the schedule, every team is beatable. The MAAC is even. We’re not going out there playing the Harlem Globetrotters, where we have no chance of winning.
“Teams are going to be getting upset left and right. We think there’s so much parity in the league that I wouldn’t be surprised if the first-place team finished with 12, 13 wins.”
“We need a win right now,” guard Evan Hymes said. “Every night, really, is a test of wills. We have to go out and compete on the defensive end, every game. We’ll go in with the same focus we do every game, and hopefully it’ll pay off.”