Saints' Anosike expected to play vs. Gaels
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings were a mad tangle entering the final weekend of the season.
The only certainty was that Siena would face Marist in the first round of the MAAC tournament as the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in Springfield, Mass.
The Saints still have one more game to play, though, against Iona at 2 p.m. today at the Hynes Center.
Siena is coming off a 76-74 loss to Marist at the Times Union Center on Friday night in what was the final home game in the stellar career of senior forward O.D. Anosike.
He said during the week that it was going to be a bittersweet departure, and as it turned out, the ending was much more bitter than sweet as Anosike had to leave the game twice in the final minutes when he succumbed to leg cramps.
With 20 seconds left and Siena still trying to figure out a way to scratch out a victory, Anosike was in the trainer’s room hooked up to an IV.
As durable a player as Siena has seen, he is expected to be in the lineup today. Anosike hasn’t missed a game in his four-year career and was 10th in the country in average minutes played heading into the Marist game.
“He’s a strong dude, and I’m sure he’ll bounce back,” point guard Evan Hymes said.
“It was a tough loss for O.D., and a tough loss for us, also,” soph-omore Trenity Burdine said. “We just have to get ready and get our heads back for Sunday.”
Hymes is expected to be back in the starting lineup after head coach Mitch Buonaguro benched him against Marist for oversleeping and missing a team meeting during the week.
Christian Brothers Academy graduate Chris Leppanen of Troy started in his place, but played only six minutes.
Leppanen has not been going on road trips so he could concentrate on his schoolwork, and Buonaguro said this week that he’s made sufficient academic progress to make the trip to Iona.
The Saints, 4-13 in the MAAC and 7-22 overall, will need all the help they can get against high-powered Iona (10-7, 16-13).
Siena actually had a strong game plan in the first meeting, but couldn’t quite pull it out and lost, 66-62, on Jan. 4.
The Saints did a good job on Momo Jones, who is running away with the MAAC scoring title, averaging 23.4 points per game after a 35-point performance in a 90-86 win over Loyola on Friday.
He scored 19 against Siena, but made just four of 13 shots. Siena also bottled up Sean Armand, the fourth leading scorer in the MAAC, a little bit, as he was 5-for-14 for 14 points.
Siena’s defense took a step back against Marist, though, allowing the Red Foxes to shoot 53.7 percent from the field. Siena is 7-7 when holding opponents under 40 percent, and 0-15 otherwise.
The Saints have had more assists than turnovers just twice this season, and both games were against Marist.
“We’ve got to shore up our defense a little bit,” Buonaguro said. “Our defense let us down. But I was encouraged by our offense. I thought that was our best offensive game of the year.”
Not coincidentally, Burdine had a career-high 17 points.
In the 10 games since he returned from a six-game academic suspension, Burdine is shooting 57.1 percent from the field and 84.9 percent from the free-throw line.
He’s averaged 11.4 ppg over that stretch to raise his season average to 8.3.
“I’m just playing hard,” he said. “My teammates are finding me. My shots are going down, I’m getting into the lane, getting to the rack and getting to the free-throw line. I’m just sticking with how I play and not trying to do too much. They’re finding me, and everything’s going well right now.”