Nicked-up Saints may have hands full with streaking Eagles
At least one player will hop back on Siena’s roster carousel tonight, one may hop off and a few others aren’t quite sure either way.
No matter who has been in there, it’s been a bumpy ride for the Saints, who have lost 13 of their last 15 heading into a 7 p.m. game against first-place Niagara, including an 87-64 dismantling of Siena last Thursday in Buffalo. Tonight’s game will be broadcast on Time Warner Cable Ch. 50.
The constants for Siena have been senior forward O.D. Anosike and sophomore guard Evan Hymes, the only two Saints to have played in all 19 games this season.
The Saints will regain the services of sophomore Rob Poole, their second-leading scorer, but he is still experiencing lingering effects of the flu that kept him out of the last four games.
As of Thursday, the Saints were still waiting for word from the school on the status of redshirt sophomore forward Trenity Burdine, who has been on academic suspension, but at least he’s been back to practice this week.
Siena is 2-6 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and 4-15 overall, but still has 10 MAAC games left to get people healthy and gather some momentum.
“Slowly but surely, we’re getting everyone back,” Anosike said. “Our main focus right now is to get everyone back, get into a rhythm and hopefully make a push toward the MAAC tournament.”
Starting guard Rakeem Brookins (back spasms) missed the week of practice in an effort to preserve him for tonight’s game, but it’s uncertain whether freshman guard Ryan Oliver (sprained knee) will play.
He was limited to just shooting at practice on Thursday, as was sophomore forward Imoh Silas, who has been healthy all season and gradually improving his play, but hurt his ankle in practice this week and also had a limited shooting-only practice on Thursday.
Compounding this mishmash is the fact that Siena is facing a team that ripped its zone defense last week, making 12 of 18 three-pointers before missing its last six after the game was in hand.
Led by Antoine Mason (18.4 points per game), the son of former New York Knick Anthony Mason, and Juan’ya Green, the Purple Eagles (7-1, 11-8) have the second-highest scoring offense in the MAAC, behind Iona.
Niagara has won seven straight MAAC games for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
“We’re going to tweak some things and play the zone better,” head coach Mitch Buonaguro said. “We need to have a sense of urgency on their shooters. They shot it really well out there, so we’re going to have to get out to the shooters better.
“They’re a hard team to defend because they have so many scorers, but if we’re going to play zone, we have to play it better, with more aggression.”
“We knew Niagara had a high-octane offense,” Anosike said. “They can really score, and they’re tremendous at home. It was our worst zone of the year, and they made us pay for it.
“So now, we’ve got to make a concerted effort to really tighten up the zone. We’re going to live and die by the zone. We made a commitment to it, and we just have to play it better.”
Anosike was not on the floor at the end of the Niagara loss last week after getting hit with two technicals on the same play.
By then, the game was already out of hand on the scoreboard.
“I don’t really remember what I said, but the frustration sets in anytime you’re down by 20 points,” he said. “For me, as a senior leader, I’ve got to do a better job of keeping my head. It’s not something I foresee happening again.”
Anosike needs 36 rebounds to tie Steve McCoy for third on Siena’s all-time career list.
Having already reached 1,000 career points this season, he needs 12 points to pass Mike Brown, Dan Terwilliger and Tim Hill into 31st on the all-time list. . . .
Brookins leads the MAAC with 2.2 steals per game.