Frustration builds as Siena lets one slip away
ALBANY His voice had an edge, and rose with each answer.
Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro referred to a “carbon copy” of other games.
Then he produced a carbon copy of that answer, repeating his disappointment and frustration, over and over.
The Saints have lost plenty of games this year, but this one left messy splotches of ink on their hands, because they had Iona beaten, but couldn’t finish it.
Siena wasted a 10-point second-half lead and lost, 66-62, at the Times Union Center on Friday night, their 10th straight loss, to fall to 2-12 overall and 0-3 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
The Saints forced the Gaels into the low-scoring game they needed, but one short, sloppy stretch with less than 10 minutes left turned it into a tight game, and that was all Iona (2-1, 8-6) needed.
Despite the long losing streak, Buonaguro has been resolutely upbeat after every game.
Not this time.
“We’ve got to win. There’s no consolation in losing,” he said. “We’ve lost 10 straight games. It hurts. There’s a frustration level. I can’t show it, because I’m the leader, but after this game, I’m frustrated. I’ve got to be honest with you, because we should’ve won the game.
“We should’ve won the game.”
Siena held Iona’s terrific outside shooters, Momo Jones and Sean Armand, to 19 and 14 points, respectively, both under their MAAC-leading averages.
Meanwhile, Siena countered with a dominating performance from senior forward O.D. Anosike, who had 19 points and 15 rebounds, and 18 points from Rob Poole.
Iona was almost 17 points under its season scoring average, a seemingly perfect formula for a Siena win.
But after a flurry of nine lead changes in a span of five minutes late in the game, Iona made seven of eight free throws in the final 51 seconds to keep the Saints at bay.
Jones missed a short stretch late in the second half when he hurt his back trying to draw a charge, but came back to score what proved to be the winning points. He made two free throws for a 63-58 lead with 21.2 seconds left.
“This is a game we thought we could win coming into it, and a game we had in hand,” Anosike said. “Costly turnovers and ill-advised shots cost us the game. It’s a very disappointing loss for all of us.
“He’s [Buonaguro] a little bit upset, and you can’t blame him. It was a game we had in hand. We were well-prepared for this game.”
“Some people say they’re at the bottom of the MAAC, but playing at Siena, it’s tough,” Jones said. “It was big to win here. It says a lot about our team that we were able to grind it out. We weren’t able to do that at the beginning of the season.”
Fourteen games into the season, Siena hasn’t been able to figure out how to do that.
The Saints put themselves in position to stop the streak by holding Iona to 24 points in the first half, and led by five.
The Saints increased it to 10, 47-37, midway through the second half, but then gave the Gaels a small window of opportunity.
Iona did not hesitate.
Freshman Brett Bisping’s tip-in put Siena ahead, 49-40, but guard Rakeem Brookins overshot an uncontested baseline layup, leading to a three by Armand.
Iona pressed, and freshman Ryan Oliver turned it over, then compounded the mistake by fouling Jones as he barely got his layup to slowly roll over the rim and in.
His free throw cut it to 49-46 with 8:25 left.
Siena appeared to have another chance on an inbounds play that put Poole in position for a layup, but he fumbled it away.
Brookins fouled, and Jones made two free throws, followed by an Armand three that gave Iona its first lead, 51-48, since six minutes left in the first half.
Just like that, in a span of less than three minutes, it was a new ballgame.
“What changed the game was a couple plays,” Buonaguro said.
“We got a couple of good looks for guys we wanted to get looks for,” Iona head coach Tim Cluess said. “We were pretty stagnant most of the game. They slowed the game down and were really patient in the shot clock. They were willing to let the shot clock violate rather than take a quick shot and get into an up-and-down game.”
Ridley 1-4 4-4 6, Laury 6-10 0-1 12, Jones 4-13 10-11 19, Sledge 0-2 0-0 0, Armand 5-14 0-0 14, English 4-9 1-2 11, Gomez 0-0 0-0 0, Bowan 2-3 0-0 4, Moikobu 0-3 0-0 0, Dennis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-58 15-18 66.
Anosike 8-11 3-5 19, Silas 3-4 1-2 7, Hymes 1-8 2-2 4, Brookins 3-12 0-0 7, Poole 6-17 2-2 18, Audu 0-0 0-0 0, Oliver 0-0 0-0 0, Martens 1-2 0-0 2, Bisping
Halftime: Siena 29, Iona 24. Three-point goals: Iona 7-21 (Jones 1-4, Sledge 0-1, Armand 4-11, English 2-4, Bowman 0-1); Siena 5-17 (Hymes 0-4, Brookins 1-5, Poole 4-8). Rebounds: Iona 33 (Laury 9); Siena 37 (Anosike 15). Assists: Iona 12 (Jones 5); Siena 11 (Hymes 7). Total fouls: Iona 15; Siena 17. Attendance: 5,696.