Siena vs. Saint Peter's: Saints focused on Peacocks after ending 11-game skid
ALBANY The air was still buzzing with excitement about the huge win over Canisius.
The players restricted their celebration to the few moments on the court following Rakeem Brookins’ buzzer-beater, though.
In the locker room, it wasn’t much noisier than it had been following the previous 11 games, all Siena losses.
Starving for a victory, the Saints got their first one in 55 days, 57-54, over the Golden Griffins on Friday night, then immediately turned their attention to their next opponent, Saint Peter’s, which
Siena will play at 2 p.m. today at the Times Union Center.
For two months, the Saints have become experts at talking about moving past a loss; now, they have to move past a win, an exceedingly rare circumstance this season.
Based on senior forward O.D. Anosike’s emphatic comments after the Canisius game, they’re equipped to do that.
“It’s a multitude of different feelings,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a great win. We want to enjoy it, we understand that Canisius is a great team and it’s definitely a morale booster.
“But at the same time, we’re still 3-13. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We can’t start celebrating now, by any means. By any means. So there’s a level of focus and responsibility still in this room.”
The 11-game losing streak was the longest for Siena since 1995-96.
The Saints avoided an 0-5 conference start since joining the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Brookins dribbled upcourt in the closing seconds and made a three from the left wing with eight-tenths of a second left, setting off a wild celebration on the Siena bench.
Not long after, the celebration was over.
“It’s a very big win, but we can’t be stuck on this win,” said guard Evan Hymes, who scored 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting despite missing the first 10 minutes of the second half with an eye injury. “We want to keep the ball moving, keep rolling, because we have a tough opponent on Sunday.”
“I think they got that [message] without saying it,” head coach Mitch Buonaguro said Saturday afternoon after a mid-day practice. “They understand that each game is a challenge, and you’ve got to move on and prepare and keep playing good defense.”
Of the Saints’ 16 games, 10 have been decided by six points or less.
Siena has a 3-7 record in those games.
Canisius had two shots to win Friday’s game, but missed, and the second one was rebounded by Siena to set up the hectic closing seconds.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of games like this on most nights in the league,” Buonaguro said. “You’ve got to be good late-game. We just happened to make a lucky shot.”
Siena (1-4, 3-13) hasn’t beaten Saint Peter’s (1-4, 6-9) in four games since Buonaguro was promoted to head coach three seasons ago.
Despite the Peacocks’ record, they have wins over Rutgers, Cornell and Iona.
“Saint Peter’s is a team that, quite frankly, has our number,” Anosike said. “We have to go in there with a focus like we’re playing Duke.”
Rob Poole, Siena’s second-leading scorer, missed the Canisius game with the flu and is questionable for Saint Peter’s after not practicing on Saturday.
Freshman Rich Audu started in his place, but Buonaguro said he’s leaning toward freshman Ryan Oliver to get the nod this time.
Oliver played 36 minutes off the bench and hit two three-pointers in the second half, the second of which gave Siena a 53-51 lead with 2:43 left.
“He hit a big three and got some big rebounds, and he was good in the zone,” Buonaguro said. “He got out to the shooters. He played with almost a veteran quality, he wasn’t nervous and looked like he knew what he was doing.”
During a pregame ceremony on Friday, Anosike was presented with a commemorative ball signifying his 1,000 career points. He’s the 38th player to achieve that.
“I’m going to give the ball to my mom, and then she’s going to cry,” he said with a laugh. …
Former Albany Academy player Jamel Fields is on the Saint Peter’s roster, but is ineligible to play this season per NCAA transfer rules. He played the last two seasons at Fairfield.